My husband and I just spent some time visiting my mother in law, Alice, and we were pleased to see that she is taking such good care of herself. We are among the lucky ones, as Alice has no cognitive problems. She still drives. I got in the car with her and did my “ride along assessment“. She’s still safe.
She keeps track of her many medications and takes them exactly as prescribed. She gets on the treadmill for 25 minutes every morning. She eats what’s good for her. Her weight is normal. She doesn’t smoke. She drinks very moderately. She does her pool exercises.
Alice understands that being healthy as an 89 year old takes a lot of vigilance and work. What I respect is that she is willing to do the work. She’s been having some trouble with leg pain, which was diagnosed as a problem with the fibrous band along the side of the thigh (“IT band”). It probably started years ago when she had both knees replaced. As it affected her walking, she asked a doctor for some advice.
He suggested physical therapy, along with some stretches she can do at home. She got right to it. She got out of the car after the appointment and was doing the stretches as she waited while my husband and I stopped at a coffee place. As we walked back, cups in hand, we saw Mom, standing by the car, one hand on it for balance, bending forward with legs crossed as directed, and working at her stretches already. Go, Alice!
Alice is determined to remain independent. She was married for 62 years and misses her husband terribly. But, she plays cards with friends, takes two classes each year at the local university extension, and reaches out to people. She makes an effort to address her lonely times. She learned to use a computer at age 86, with my patient husband teaching her.
Every day, a friend of hers sends out jokes by email and Alice reads them and laughs. She’s a pretty good joke teller, too. And if she needs information, she googles it, just like we do.
She loves her Kindle. She reads a lot and thinks it’s the greatest invention ever.
Life for Alice is not perfect, but it’s pretty good indeed. She’s planning a cruise for the family to join her for her 90th birthday celebration next year.
What can the rest of us learn from all this? We can see that there is wisdom in the prediction that “we can prevent about 80 percent of heart disease, about 90 percent of diabetes, and about 70 percent of stroke if we make the right food choices, get physical activity and don’t smoke.”
Those are the words of Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School. Alice is proving him right.
Alice just got back from a checkup with the doctor. She reports that her blood work is normal and other health measures are all looking good. She’s going to do a course of physical therapy for the leg pain. She’ll fit it in between social events and her date with a new guy she met recently.