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There's a lesson for all of us in my dad's death

The third one along in this photo is my sports-mad dad in his 20s. He also played rugby league, rugby union, tennis, badminton, table tennis and golf. Yet he fell a couple of weeks ago, broke his thighbone, and didn’t survive the aftermath of the operation to pin it. He was 88.

He went from being fit and strong as a young man to weak and frail as an old man.

You might think that’s natural, and that weakness and frailty go with ageing. But it’s not true. In the next post I’ll show you a man who’s taking a different path. 

When my dad stopped playing sport — which wasn’t until his 40s — he still prepared cricket wickets. That involves planting, watering, mowing and rolling the turf. So he was at least moderately active until he was about 70. In summer, anyway.

After that, he read, watched TV and went about his not-very-physical daily life.

In his mid to late 70s he had parts of his feet amputated as a result of type 2 diabetes. That made walking more difficult, so he didn’t do more of it than he had to. 

He was from a generation that didn’t ‘do exercise’, and when he was young, everyday life was physical enough that he didn’t need to. 

But things changed, and now few of us can get away with the level of physicality that activities of daily living provide. They’re just not enough.

As he sat more and moved less, Dad grew weak and unsteady on his feet. Sitting down and standing up got harder . 

This year, after a few falls, he was admitted to a nursing home, which he hated. 

As much as losing him breaks my heart, for his sake I’m glad he’s done with nursing homes. 

But what happened to my dad is becoming commonplace, especially for older women, who fall more than older men. 

There are more of us in the older age groups, but that aside, we’re not falling because of our age or gender. It’s because we’re not strong, stable and mobile enough to function well.

To do that we have to be intentional about exercise. 

Walking helps, especially if you’re always on the lookout for opportunities to do it. But we also need to maintain the big muscle groups of our back, bottom and legs. We need to be able to bend, squat, reach, push, pull and balance. 

As long as we’re alive, getting older is inevitable. But we don’t have to do it the way my dad did. We have a much bigger say in our experience of ageing than most of us realise.


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Thursday, November 10, 2016 | Rhonda Anderson