I’ve been having problems with my ankles.
“Well, you’re getting older.”
It’s not inherently or exclusively an age problem, and I fiercely resist this mindset.
Lots of people my age and older—including much older—don’t have problems with their ankles. If it was an age problem, most people my age and older would share this problem.
Thirteen-ish years ago, I was getting a massage on a table at a park. I had just finished a triathlon and was taking advantage of the services available to the athletes.
“Do you have problems with your ankles?” the therapist asked.
No, I didn’t. He was surprised. He finished the massage, and on we went.
What did I do with that information? Nothing.
The ankle problems have arrived.
Because I’m old? No. Because there was already something wrong (that he could feel) and it finally caught me. Because I’m sitting more or running trails or doing parkour or have a dietary deficiency or it just got a little bit worse every year until now? Not sure yet. Working on finding an answer and hopefully reversing the problem.
Would have been better to have a conversation with him at that time and worked out the problem then. Hindsight and all that. But also, that makes Heat-of-the-Past responsible for it so Heat-of-the-Present doesn’t have to be. All the Heats would like the others to deal with it.
I knew a guy a long time ago, who bought a new car every two years because he didn’t want to bother with maintenance (and because he had enough cash to back up this plan).
If you don’t do maintenance, the car breaks down. Doing some of the maintenance is better than doing none, but it’s still not enough.
The analogy isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough for now.
Our bodies aren’t made to sit in chairs at all, much less all day. Our bodies aren’t made to take in so much sugar or fat or caffeine or air pollution or off-gassing or trace amounts of a myriad of things. Our bodies aren’t made to be socially isolated or to work under persistent emotional stress.
I think when we dismiss things as “getting older” we actually mean, “I haven’t been doing proper maintenance and it finally caught up with me.”
But there’s agency and ownership in that, and most of us don’t want that (or use to kick off a shame spiral which is no more useful than denial).
Certainly not all that ails us is within our control. I expect eventually we’ll learn more is in our control than we know, we just haven’t figured it out yet. For now, we’re off the hook for agency but not off the hook for consequences.
One of the things that has long bothered me about cancer awareness campaigns (among others) is that we already have awareness. We’ve done lots of research, we know what causes some of these problems, and we refuse to change our lives, collectively, to live by it.
Do we slow down as we age? Do parts wear down with use? Of course. Does recovery take longer in my 40s than it did in my 20s? Yup. But basic functioning is available to the majority of people whose routines include giving our bodies what they need to keep running, regardless our age.