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                            Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors, and Retirees

Episode 026 Aches and Pains 

           Most of us retire while still young and vigorous but soon enough our bodies betray us and as the years go by we experience more physical problems and loss of memory. At 81 years of age, I have a few infirmities but I try to stay active and avoid what I call the Ward Effect. When I meet an old friend and ask, “How are you doing?” if I get a listing of aches and pains, I try to change the subject.

           I have worked on hospital wards and in rehab centers helping patients to get over the effects of disease and injury. Some people seem to enjoy poor health and they like to compare symptoms and complaints with others. Some of that is useful but severely disabled people can profit from concentrating on their remaining abilities.

           A young therapist once reported to our psychologist that one of her clients complained all the time even though she stayed with him and sympathized with him. He suggested what every parent knows. “Try ignoring his sick behavior and come back when he is busy and praise his activity”. A few days later she reported that it had worked and wondered if it would work on others. The end result was that we all embarked on a program to manage our own and our patient’s behavior.

           Two of my sons were visiting me once and noticed a bathtub in the middle of my living room. I explained that I was remodeling and planned to reinstall the tub in a downstairs bath. “We’ll get it for you, Dad” they cheerfully proposed as they maneuvered the heavy tub down the stairway. I could have done it myself but it gave us all great pleasure to have these young men assert their superior strength.

           We all manipulate one another at times. Some people fall into a pattern of helplessness. I like to ride my bike three miles each morning to pick up the newspaper. In bad weather I may skip it for a few days but it is a test of my strength and coordination and after a few days I am back in high gear again. We also often visit many state and national parks in our truck camper, walking the trails and enjoying the birds.

           Some people enjoy health spas and gyms or personal exercise machines. The important thing is to find an activity that will stretch your mind and body and do it regularly preferably with a spouse or a friend.

           Staying in touch with the natural world helps us to recognize and respect the needs of our bodies for proper diet and exercise. We don’t have a television in part because it is boring but also because it takes time that can be invested in better ways.

I chopped up some wood during the Super Bowl then read a few chapters of Moby Dick. The main danger here is self-righteous arrogance so I don’t tell my friends.

           There’s an old saying, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet”. We see every day pictures of young soldiers who have suffered terrible injuries of all kinds but who are learning to adjust to their prostheses or their wheelchairs without complaints. They have learned from each other and from their VA caretakers that is the best way to overcome their problems.

           Support groups are an important part of adjusting to physical and mental injuries for soldiers and for all the rest of us who sometimes find ourselves disabled. Most of us have such a group in our family, church, workplace or elsewhere. Alcoholics Anonymous is such a group. It is a formula used in other addictions like drugs and gambling. We can stop complaining about our aches and pains and with the help of our friends develop a program to get the most out of life. Diet, exercise and friendship are natural means of dealing with our aches and pains.

This is Dick Smith.