But Nobody Told Me!
Telling my adult children about aging feels important to me.  My mother was 84 when she died. She never talked about what it felt like to grow old - the good, the bad and the ugly - so here I am at 67 with no road map, and much of what I have encountered has been unexpected.   Here is some of what I have learned so far: The Challenges 1. I have learned that growing old gracefully is a lofty (and for me unattainable) ideal. How can I possibly embrace the aging process with grace when the image in the mirror stares back at me mercilessly, as it taunts me with its drastically thinning hair, ubiquitous age spots, and face that is rapidly migrating south. If I'm supposed to embrace my aging appearance, I’m failing abysmally. [gallery columns="1" ids="2125"] 2. I have learned that short-term memory is ... well ... short! and, as we age, fades into oblivion. In the (probably futile) hope of warding off dementia, I engage in sundry forms of brain exercise, but it doesn’t seem to make a dent in my memory difficulties. Thoughts and ideas that enter my mind often disappear in mili-seconds, lost forever unless I am somehow able to quickly scribble them down. And if – during a conversation - I have to politely wait my turn to speak, I forget what I wanted to say – and then get stuck trying desperately to remember. 3. I have learned that the greeting ‘How are you?’ takes on a whole new meaning for seniors. Just when we begin our long-awaited retirement, medical issues lie in wait, ready ...
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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
I have been living with Parkinsons for over ten years, diagnosed in my mid 50s. Despite this I lead a very full and joyful life within the parameters dictated by the disease.  But - now in my mid 60 s - I am also dealing with issues related to the aging process.  From time to time I butt heads with an event that highlights the limitations imposed by the combined forces of Parkinsons and Aging, and for a short while - often not more than a day - the impact hits home and I grieve the losses I face.  This is not for the faint at heart.  Mirror mirror on the wall Who's the slowest of us all? Mirror mirror please be kind  I'm still quite young inside my mind I Joined a Dance Class for People with Parkinsons I'm standing in a large hall at the National Ballet School of Canada, waiting to begin a dance class - not just any dance class, but one specifically for people living with Parkinsons.  I am passionate about ballet, having danced for eight of my childhood years, and do not even mind the fact that it took me two hours to get here.  A couple of years ago I enrolled in a regular beginners ballet class for adults. I enjoyed it immensely, felt proud to be facing – not avoiding -  challenges despite my disease, and was pleased with the image in the mirror that showed how my body remembered and executed the positions and steps expected of the class. And – well, I wasn’t half-bad! However – and much to my dismay - when the instructor introduced turns (“pirouettes”) I ...
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Aging Gracefully
  Aging with Dignity? Why do I think that aging with dignity is an oxymoron?  Because - with more than a smattering of nostalgia -  I am watching my optimism about aging with dignity slowly but surely drift into oblivion. But wait! Rewind ...   to the 1950s, to my high school days in Johannesburg, South Africa,  when my fellow students and I were assigned a creative writing task. We were to write an opinion piece using the title ‘Old Ladies’. My thoughts flowed easily as I put pen to paper, expounding the declining importance of older women in our society. I concluded my essay proudly and  with the unwavering conviction reserved for the unconscious mind – stating that I had no wish to live past the age of  (wait for it!)  49, beyond which I would simply be a burden on society! It’s a good thing my sentiments slipped past the ‘powers that be’  or I wouldn’t be here to tell the story!  Oh! how I’m eating my words now! I suppose I should be ashamed of my teenage ignorance,  but I am far more concerned about the “A” grade that I received for this essay!  I have a  great deal  to say about that! Firstly,  I should have been hauled into the Guidance Counselor’s office to begin a process of social awareness training. Secondly, somebody should have explored where on earth I got the idea that 50 was old!!  Although I did not grow up with grandparents (all  died during my pre-school years), I had aunts and uncles who were probably in their 50’s and up. 49??  What was I thinking??  Hell, when I was 49 (almost 20 years ago) I ...
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Stuck in Slow Motion
Stuck in Slow Motion:  Finding Joy Behind  the Mask of Parkinson's Disease? What is Parkinsons Disease? Parkinsons disease is a degenerative neurological disorder  for which there is currently no cure, and at  this time the progression of the disease cannot be slowed down. At best the symptoms can be managed . I have been living with Parkinsons disease for ten years. What Are the Symptoms of Parkinsons disease? Parkinsons Diisease is classified as a Movement Disorder because it affects the muscles  that control our  movements. A lack of dopamine causes a kind of 'broken link' between the brain and the muscles  The disease is characterized by  muscle rigidity, hand tremors and slowing of movement. Many people with Parkinsons disease  in its more advanced stages also have impaired balance, a stiff facial expression, shuffling gait, muffled speech, and small, cramped handwriting. Some experience memory loss, others struggle with disease-induced depression Diagnosis My memories of D-Day (“Diagnosis Day”) remain vivid.  “You have garden-variety Parkinson’s Disease,” announced the neurologist casually, leaving me fighting back tears as I tried to maintain a dignified front.  “Garden variety Parkinson’s disease?” I repeated to myself and "What is  Parkinsons disease?"  For months after, as I tried in vain to deny my new reality,   I devoured copious bits of information  on disease progression, impact and management and in the hope that knowledge would empower me. Instead, it filled my mind with images of a future truncated by rapidly-spiraling physical and mental deterioration.   I was utterly devastated. Fighting the Good Fight As the initial shock began to wear off I resolved to fight this strong adversary with every fibre of my being, and to uphold my joyful disposition, despite the ...
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