NASH COLUMN: Aging has its positives; it outweighs the bad and the ugly

NASH COLUMN: Aging has its positives; it outweighs the bad and the ugly

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Surprise — this isn’t about politics, the stock market or the COVID-19 virus. It’s about old age, something we all experience if we’re lucky. With old age come the good, the bad and the ugly. But I’ll reverse the order so we end on a good note.

Some people think wrinkles and sags are ugly, but we could look at them as medals for surviving so long. I’ll go with that and get rid of the “ugly” altogether.

As far as the bad, there are often health concerns as we age, since our bodies, like anything else with moving parts, wear down with time. Eating well and exercising help to minimize the effects, but eventually we notice changes. There are often leg cramps, unexplained and fleeting pains, arthritis and memory loss.

I’ve tried everything to prevent night-time leg cramps and found only two things help: staying hydrated and stretching leg and toe muscles about 30 seconds each before going to bed. Some say magnesium helps, but it didn’t for me. As for arthritis, I and many friends have found that taking the supplement MSM or methylsulfonylmethane, which is actually just sulfur, eliminates or relieves arthritis pain. Since sulfur has been depleted in most soils, most of us lack it in our diets. In my case, taking it only a couple of times a week eliminates the neck pain I used to have whenever the weather changed.

Some memory loss is common as we age. Where there used to be a familiar word, there’s suddenly a black hole. As a result, I’ve learned to love synonyms. But sometimes they aren’t enough. Recently, it took me over a week to recall the phrase “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Nothing else would fit. The funny thing is that I wanted to use it in a column about aging to explain how we’re sometimes so anxious about something that we make it worse than it would have been.

Speaking of anxiety, older people start to fear things they’ve done their whole lives, like taking long trips, walking on snowy surfaces and climbing ladders. That’s normal. As we age, we tire more easily and may lose balance or get dizzy when turning abruptly or climbing onto stools or ladders. It just makes sense to use caution and avoid activities that often cause injuries to seniors.

Misplacing things is also common. One of my relatives, who’s older than I am, said he gets all the exercise he needs by traipsing all over his house looking for things he’s set down and walked away from. If my house was as big as his is, I’d qualify for the Olympics.

For me, the worse part about growing old is that I’ve lost so many beloved relatives and friends. The good thing is that I was so lucky to have had them in my life and am left with so many warm and loving memories.

In fact, many things about aging are positives. For one thing, we learn what’s important in life. Family and friends come first, and we often have more time to be with them. We get rid of things we don’t need, not only to remove clutter and make it easier to clean, but to make it less time-consuming for our loved ones after we pass away.

Because we have more wonderful memories, they often spur us to contact old friends or distant relatives. Looking through old photo albums reminds us of places we’ve been and people we’ve loved. And some of us gain a new appreciation for our parents and the challenges they faced.

If we’re lucky, we have time to pursue hobbies we love and to create something of beauty, either in art, crafts or words. One of my most prized possessions are the poems my disabled sister wrote. Knowing what a struggle it was for her to type, every letter of every word is a great gift. We may also choose to volunteer to help others or to educate ourselves on subjects we had no time for, or interest in, when we were younger. In other words, old age can present us with a variety of exciting opportunities.

We can also choose to leave a record of our lives. I do wish that my grandparents had written memoirs, so I’d know what they experienced — what joys and challenges they encountered, the feelings they had and the main events of their times. There are also a lot of things I wish I knew about my parents’ early lives. That’s why I’ve tried to leave a record of my own life for those descendants who may be interested to know what it was like to live in these times.

And then there’s the new appreciation for naps. Speaking of naps…it’s time. See you next week.

Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 35 years. Contact her at

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