You're Too Old for This Stuff

Julia Hubbel, Walkabout Saga, Horizon Huntress Hubbel

Musings on why retirement may be a very bad idea.

Well, okay. It depends.

On a cool evening last fall, just as I finished snugging the bungee cord that tightened the blue tarp over my brand new pile of wood, it started raining.

Timing. Three thousand two hundred pounds of split green fir, ready to dry for winter up here in Oregon.

That morning I had welcomed the Lane County Forest products truck as he backed in and dumped my wood, about a cord plus, into my driveway, above. The driver commented on what a pity it was I didn’t have anyone to load the wood for me.

I laughed out loud. Oh please. At almost 68, this is my kinda work.

I love this kind of work. I had a fractured finger (left hand down) a fractured toe (right foot down). I felt like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I couldn’t wait to get started. A wheelbarrow was out of the question. The pressure it put on my pinky toe was excruciating.

So, pack and load. From 8 am until nearly 4 pm, two food and water breaks. I schlepped that wood uphill, bruising my left arm and my legs in the process. At least the whole pile didn’t fall on me, which is more my luck.

By just before 4, I had the piles organized neatly, just uphill from my house. I probably had hiked the equivalent of a small mountain, carrying all that wood.

Just enough time to sprint to Lowe’s, get a tarp and bungee that bad boy down.

Then I limped inside, showered off all that dirt and dust, then slept the sleep of the righteously tired, my windows wide open to let in that sweet, cool Oregon air.

Hire someone? Not on your life.

I’m not too old for this.

I just bought a climbing rope and a harness so that I can hook into the big metal loop on my ridge. The roof is very steep, and it gets a lot of debris from the trees. Clean it or you have to replace it.

I’m going to clean it, once I get the system in place. I consider that an adventure. So will my neighbors, who will probably open up parimutuel betting to see when I’m going to take a header off my roof and hang myself.

Lotta folks my age are just retiring, and anticipating days of nothing ahead.

Look, I can’t speak for you or anyone else, but that looks like an early death sentence. Science bears me out on this:

Think Retirement Is Smooth Sailing? A Look at Its Potential Effects on the Brain

Ah, retirement. It's the never-ending weekend, that well-deserved oasis of freedom and rest we reach after decades of…

From the article:

Some studies have linked retirement to poorer health and a decline in cognitive functioning — at times resulting in as much as double the rate of cognitive aging. This leaves people at a greater risk of developing various types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Look, I’m not addressing those for whom life threw such an awful curve that they are forced to work a job they hate (or five) to survive. Nor those for whom bad luck or poor choices or a confluence of terrible events have left them completely disabled. This isn’t an article specifically about how impossible it is to be a person of color in America and have a shot at a decent life, much less any kind of retirement, much less a healthy retirement. I get that. Please kindly do NOT gaslight me with those individual stories or claims that I’m not aware. I don’t question their veracity. This piece is not about that.

I am however pointing out that when you and I have choices, and not everyone does, to be fair, you and I are going to be far more likely to be lively and engaged if we step lively a lot more often.

If however, you’re too old for this, well. by Nick Cooper / Unsplash

You’ve effectively already started to die.

Because the brain, along with the heart and mind, responds to intentions. Every single day when I wake up at 3 am, I am out of bed faster than you can say HOLY COW IT’S WAY EARLY. I just returned to the point where I can do pushups and pullups. I did PT daily to regain use of my hand, and I was impatient with my angry pinky toe. I finally, finally got out to run rocky trails just as the winter rains make them mug slogs.

My house is under construction. Wood floors. Set up the office. Hang paintings. Set up gear room. Set up workout area. It’s never ending. I forgot- after so many years- just how complex a major move really is. And FUN, because this time I get to do it right. I’ve got just enough funds to get nice (used) things, and enough smarts to cull even more as I go through all my gear.

Too old for this? Too old for what, precisely? Hubbel: this is the load I moved four times. Well, part of it.

This year I moved some 4200 cu.ft. of my boxes, largely by myself, including most of my furniture, four times. FOUR TIMES. The last time I had one hand down.

Too old for this?

When I am too old or decrepit to move my own furniture, haul my own boxes and stack my own wood, my arse will be ashes, if you will.

I come from a farming family. I noticed that after my dad quit farming work, he lost strength nearly overnight. In just a few years of doing little to no work to maintain his considerable natural strength, it was gone. One day, I found him sobbing next to his big Dodge fifth-wheeler, trying to change a tire.

He looked my concerned face and choked out, “I can’t do this any more.”

I was eighteen. I never, ever forgot that lesson.

Dad had a choice. He chose to learn to bake bread and eat candy. To sit for hours working on hobbies. He didn’t walk, didn’t work out. His belly grew, his arms turned to sticks. He resented what time had done to him but he refused to do anything about it.

I’m too old for that, he would say. Too old to learn a computer. Too old to… live, I guess.

Our bodies- YOUR body- are designed for steady work for an entire long lifetime. by Chander R / Unsplash

When we fuel our bodies for life, we are unstoppable. As I have written, and am applying to myself right now, that fueling process is bound to change as we age. Our bodies morph over time, and what we can eat as well as how much are not laid in stone.

Meet that challenge with denial and avoidance, you end up like my dad: unhappy at how his body let him down, rather than rise to the constant challenge of self-care.

We let our bodies down, not the other way around.

Here’s a perfectly-timed piece for those of you barking at the big Five-Oh and wondering if it’s all downhill from here:

Here's How to Get Stronger After 50

It's no secret that our bodies change as we age. Muscle mass and strength decline, it takes longer to recover from hard…

From the article:

Your training needs don’t change as you get older. You still want to build cardiovascular capacity, strength, and functional mobility. But the way you approach those goals needs to be tailored to the individual, depending on your current fitness level, injury state, and other lifestyle factors.

Every bit of research on the aging body, and there is plenty of it, says that when you and I continue to move, when we eat well for OUR bodies at OUR time of life based on OUR activity levels and energy needs, surround ourselves with like-minded positive folks in our community and above all, have a really good reason for living, we thrive.

What does this look like in practice? Well. I’ve been to 47 countries. Many of them are developing nations. Folks who are in their nineties in Vietnam are still tilling the rice fields.

That’s what keeps them alive, happy, healthy. The rice doesn’t plant itself, the younger folks need to learn how to plant and harvest, and the work keeps grams, both of them, hearty, happy and healthy.

Some time back I read a piece by one nitwit (and I am unforgiving when it comes to ageism) who wrote about people where he was traveling that folks in their seventies were out with their carts selling food…when they SHOULD be at home.

Sharp intake of breath. by zhang kaiyv / Unsplash

That those folks in their seventies were out selling their wares, engaged in the community, being active were likely precisely what gave them pleasure and purpose. Stick them at home, inside, and what,

wait to die?

Convenience is killing us softly.

I’m too old for THAT nonsense. I will stack my own wood, move my own furniture, schlep my own boxes, cut my own tree limbs, haul my own yard trash from the storms.

Finally, from Walter Adamson on aging:

Two Things A Lifetime Of Research On Aging And The Brain Said We Should Do Now

Dr Mattson’s two findings on how to live longer better

From his article:

There are two interventions which have risen to the top over the last 20 years of research, as summarised in a 2018 report by Dr Mattson. His conclusion, after a lifetime of study?

- Exercise and diet are critical determinants of healthy brain aging.

Well, stop the presses.

Two of the simplest, most directly accessible things you and I can do something about right here, right now. That is, and this is a nod to the reality of being an older person of color in America, assuming you have access to decent food, can afford it and kindly, don’t get shot for Running While Black.

If you’re too old for this, you are likely dying fast, like my father. It’s never about just longevity. It is always and forever about quality of life, aging vibrantly. by Gabe Pierce on Unsplash

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Welcome home. You are HOME if you like irreverent, smart, funny, in-your-face writing. You are HOME if you like stories about interesting people of all ages, cultures, stripes, backgrounds, beliefs doing amazing things because they made different decisions. You are HOME if you wanna learn about aging vibrantly, being in the outdoors, getting and staying fit no matter our number. You are HOME if, on occasion, you like to laugh so hard you spew your drink of choice on your lap cat/dog/gerbil/centipede/soon-to-be ex. I work hard, ride fast horses, do lots of sports, fly high and still leap out of airplanes. Yeah, really, and I am 68. And yes I love, respect and appreciate feedback, including stuff that's hard. Because hard is the recipe for resilient. Wanna play? Let's. Please. Pull up a chair. There's room by the fire. In summer, there's room on the patio. (Okay so I don't have a patio. I made that up.)Get comfy. Bring a towel for your lap. Welcome home.

Eugene, OR

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