A college chum just announced, “I’m now officially on Metformin.”
The prescription has nothing to do with Christmas, but at no other time is she most at risk of precisely the ailment Metformin is for, particularly for us seniors, whose mundane delights have been reduced to mostly oral ones.
We seem to have conveniently forgotten we are much more than just a mouth. We are still, among other things, a heart, a stomach, a pair of kidneys, as old as we are. Those body parts cannot be overtaxed by overindulgence in the name of Christmas. Quality of life, especially worth aspiring for in old age, doesn’t happen by accident.
That extra five pounds could be all we need to go from borderline to full-blown diabetic. Like a misstep or a fall, a second serving could drastically alter our health from relatively good to prechronically bad.
Notice how we have suddenly become experts in justifying why we shouldn’t deprive ourselves of simple pleasures at Christmas? We know those excuses by heart: Nobody wants to live forever, anyway. Better to become fat and happy than slim but feel deprived and, therefore, miserable. Surely, I deserve to feast during the holidays, or when else?
These fatalistic attitudes inspire the perfect excuse to ignore lab tests and doctors’ advice—like teenagers we once again equate happiness with the freedom to be reckless. We’re bound to regret that for the rest of our days, and there’s no telling how long that may be.
I do perfectly understand the feeling that we’re surrendering a privilege of age whenever we follow rules like everybody else. But, that is neither what we’ve grown old for nor always rightfully deserve?
Eating is no longer about hunger. It’s about asserting ourselves? Psychologists recognize that overweight people eat more than they should and do so not because they are hungrier than others but because of some emotional need that seems somehow satisfied by food.
My mom, in effect, showed us her love by cooking and feeding us too well. My brother and I are far from slim, but neither are we too overweight—yet. Before we get there, however, we need to find satisfaction in safer and meaningful ways, perhaps by joining a book club, pursuing an advocacy, or joining an exercise class.
The best thing someone unathletic as I did in old age was join an aqua-aerobics session three times a week. We breakfast without guilt and become closer friends as we age together. In times of trials, whether personal or familial, we rally behind each other in full support. That contributes to a feeling of well-being, too, but there seems to me no substitute for movement and activity.
My husband is lucky; he still plays tennis singles and joins tournaments at his club. I suspect he now gets his kick beating younger tennis players, whose fathers in some cases are even younger than him. He claims it’s not really about winning, but being able to win points on his terms—say, by a deadly drop shot. It’s more mental and psychological with him.
Genes or luck
Losing our mental faculties may be a matter of genes or luck, too, but it can happen to anybody, and it’s irreversible. To help our memory we are told to keep a journal to record how we are aging and what we are doing about it. In any case, we should continue reading books and keeping ourselves informed and making memories, we are further told.
Music is known to do wonders for everybody at whatever age. I’ve learned to appreciate music in a more knowledgeable way because of my husband. He is gifted with a good ear. He doesn’t read music, but hears the harmonies in his mind, which enables him to sing along any voice without practice.
He’s taught me about instruments, too. I’ve learned to identify them and their sounds. The additional knowledge has deepened my own enjoyment of music.
I used to enjoy singing in our high school and college glee club, but I’ve lost my lyrical soprano to a croak that surprises even myself sometimes. Old songs, more than anything, quickly take me back in time. Dancing still comes easily to my muscle memory.
We can do all these things and yet not be able to prepare ourselves enough for life’s sudden twists and turns. Often, all there is to do is accept and live with the situation as best we can, which makes the difference, I observe, between making it or being broken.
I’d like to spend my bonus years loving my life and being grateful for everyone and everything in it. We owe it to ourselves, no matter how old we are, to be happy and spread cheer. We should love and laugh more; maybe, then, we’ll eat less.
When it comes to great attitude no one beats my uncle Peping, 99. He lives with macular degeneration and has been bedridden for months since a bad fall. I overheard him talking on Facetime to his 97-year-old brother, Pipo, his old favorite drinking buddy, now an American resident for some time. Compared with Peping, he has minor health problems—he had a cataract operation and recently lost his once perfect set of teeth to a gum problem.
“Pipo,” I hear Peping shout at the closeup of his brother’s ear on the phone screen—both are hard of hearing. “I heard you lost all your teeth,” he said in Spanish. “Lucky for you, you don’t need teeth to drink!”