New normal to grasp

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

Get your life back! Do what you love again! Say goodbye to pain, and hello to a vibrant, ache-free existence! 

We see alluring ads like this all the time, usually including images of active seniors golfing, biking or tossing a grandchild into the air. Invariably, they promise a body recovery path back from the way we are to the way we used to be.

It's one of our culture's most enduring and destructive myths, and Dr. Bill Thomas, noted author, geriatrician and long-term care disrupter, addressed it head-on with his national “ChangingAging Tour.”  

At his Portland, OR, event, he shared a particularly uncomfortable nugget,  probably because I'm an invincible, and quite possibly immortal, baby boomer. “Healing doesn't always mean returning to how you were before,” he said, as my soul wilted. “It means moving forward.” 

Despite being a firm member of the American Association for the Denial of Aging (AADA), that's a truth I reluctantly acknowledge. But it's not Thomas who convinced me — it's life. 

Take my love of hiking, for instance. My ardor for the sport hasn't diminished, but a painful foot condition means I now plod more than scamper. 

Naturally, I rebel against this growing constraint and do everything possible to recover my former agility, but the facts on the ground dictate a new normal. So next time a grizzly attacks on the trail, though my theoretical options are fight or flight, the reality will probably be bite.

The shock, and frankly, anger, I feel when unable to do absolutely everything as well or as fast as before has given me new insight into the emotional turmoil our residents experience in facing unwelcome and often sudden limitations. 

So whatever our roles in delivering care and support, we can each help lift our eyes from what was to what still can be — moving together toward a future we all will face. n

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in Humor Writing in the 2014 American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) awards program.