Sunday, May 18, 2008

Aging Brings Some Treasured Gifts

Happiness. Peace. Joy.

These days, each of these emotions appear sometime in most every day. And it is interesting. These emotions are excellent painkillers, or at least make pain less important. I don't know how I got here mentally, exactly. But I am thankful.

I have both rheumatoid and osteo arthritis. The rheumatoid was diagnosed about 12 years ago. I had always been physically active and knew--I knew--that continued exercise was required. But I pouted, sat on my rear, and let muscle tone go as I shook my fist at a God that would allow me to have the one disease I dreaded (well, two--my mother had Alzheimer's.) The rheumatologist prescribed methotrexate. I dubiously took it, found it left me vaguely nauseous all the time, and I quit taking it. Decided I would rather limp. And limp I have. I've had no treatment since.
And as toxic as methotrexate is, even now I don't want to take it.

Correction, I did have some very effective acupuncture, and I am just now flaring up some five or six years after the treatment.

I retired early, and my COBRA ran out more than a year ago. Medicare starts Aug. 1. At that time, I will see a rheumatologist again, and see what options I now have. I have so many doctors to see this fall, I could be accused of Munchausen's syndrome. Humph.

But Feb. 29, I made a move. When I tell people about it, the reactions are interesting. Some are uncomfortable. Others are enthusiastic.

I've moved into a retirement community that includes independent living, assisted living, and a small skilled nursing unit. There are many such facilities in the area, and more to come. The one I've moved into has a high rise apartment building for both independent and assisted living residents, a street of large, luxurious "2-plexes", and a whole bunch of "cottages" which are really one-story apartments built as three to four units per building. It is such a large campus that a number of residents have bought golf carts to get around.

I have a one bedroom apartment with a living room, kitchen, bath and really large bedroom. The ceiling is slanted up to allow three high windows on the north side to let in light, in addition to regular windows and the sliding glass doors. Yes, folks can buy in and then pay a small monthly maintenance fee, but I've chosen to rent. My monthly fee covers all utilities and cable. It's a set fee per month, so if I really want to turn the thermostat down in summer, I can do so without going broke. Ahhh. One of my favorite perqs here is housekeeping coming in every two weeks to sweep the porches, vacuum, mop kitchen and bathroom floors, clean the tub, commode and sink, clean the bathroom and kitchen counters and dust all surfaces. I LOVE this. At last I have a wife. They even came early one day at my request when I was having company.

If I like, I can buy lunch at the ad building dining room, and I have done so at least weekly both because it's a good meal for the price and a great way to meet other residents. People come from all over, usually because they have family in the area, and I've met transplants from Florida, Ohio, Hawaii, and Alaska, to name a few. Most are retired professionals, but by no means all. We have about 40 who are 90 or older. I am the youngest one here. It's kind of mind-blowing to be 64 and frequently run into people who are 20-30 years older.

We have wilderness on two sides, plus an adjacent park with a small lake that draws area fishermen often. Lots of bunnies, squirrels and songbirds. NO grackles. The security head tells me he has seen a red fox and a bobcat on campus at night, and residents of one section of cottages tell me they are often visited by raccoons and possums. The grounds are kept impeccably, but we are free to plant what we want. I have a small back porch, but many have sizable patios.

In short, I am really satisfied. We have speakers--I'm going to talk about one topic that came up when the storyteller came this week--and I've taken the bus once to a concert. Not bad. Ride to the front door, go to the concert, meet the bus at the front door afterwards and ride home. Very nice. Yes, they have bingo sometimes, and I'm not about to play poker with these guys--I suspect card sharps.

Settling in and unpacking has taken much time, not to mention adjusting to the life change and new folks....and I discovered I now have arthritis in my back. The discovery was pretty sudden and painful, and affected my arthritic knee as well; a new knee is somewhere in the next year or two.

But back to happiness, peace, joy. I have indeed had some pretty strong painkillers to deal with the onset of the back problem, but this time I kept right on exercising. And if I can't get nearly as much done physically, I'm not shaking my fist any more. I give thanks for my blessings each day and ask for more blessings tomorrow. And happiness, peace and joy not only muffle pain, but they are great biofeedback tools. I focus on those emotions, not the pain, and it lessens. Plus I have more fun.

So I've moved in with the old folks. I have complete independence and privacy.
And right now, my life has peace, joy and happiness permeating it. Oh, yeah, love is a part of it, too. I am so blessed.

1 comment:

J.R.Shirley said...

"Happiness, peace, joy."

Can't be bought, can they? Very nice post.