Elderly Knee

Ten years ago when Jeff died, I was in the middle of middle age, and suddenly, according the statistics being bandied about because of this current health crisis, I am “elderly.” I’m not sure how that happened, but the truth is . . . hmmm. I don’t know what the truth is. Maybe that I am older than I think I am. Or maybe I really am old enough to be at risk.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day that said you know you’re old when all your injuries are a result of sleeping weird, and that sure hit home. A few days ago, I went to sleep feeling great with all parts working, and I woke with a knee so out of whack and I could barely walk. Then a wrong step a couple of nights ago made it worse. Though the knee is marginally better today, for which I am grateful, I am using my Pacerpoles as if they were canes to keep the weight off that knee as much as possible.

It makes me feel sad for those poor demoted hiking poles. As recent as eighteen months ago, they helped me to maneuver cliffside trails, trek through overgrown forest paths, descend scree-laden desert tracks.

Now the poles only serve to get me from room to room, and they don’t even do much of that. Mostly, I stay in one room. The daybed seems a bit easier to navigate with a bum knee since it has rails that I can use to pull myself up, and it’s a bit higher than my normal bed, so it puts less strain on my knee when I stand up.

Apparently, not only am I in the “stay at home or else” group, I’m also in the “stay in one room” group. Perhaps even the “stay in bed” group.

Sounds elderly to me.

Luckily, I have books so I don’t need to go anywhere even if I could. I should start my car to keep the gas circulated and the battery active, but the thought of having to uncover the vehicle and try to sidle into the seat without stress on the knee is too much for me to even contemplate.

And I have food. I had a few leftover tea cakes I’d made for the open house to celebrate my one-year anniversary of home ownership. I’ve been doing a good job of staying away from such treats, so I’d forgotten I had them. (Before my knee decided to go wonky on me, I’d given up deserts in an effort to lose weight to protect my knees, but my body seems to be more interested in protecting my weight than my knees.) I decided if I was going to die from a novel disease, I didn’t want to die with cake in my freezer. How sad would that be! So I ate it. And I made a stir fry with odds and ends in my refrigerator. As you can see, I’m doing fine on the food front.

Well, I’ve been sitting long enough. I better go rest my knee.

My poor elderly knee.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Channeling My Inner Elder

“Elderly,” with its connotations of frailty and dependence and uselessness, has become a pejorative term, and I can certainly understand that. In fact, the other day when someone mentioned that I was elderly, I was miffed. Elderly? Me? No way.

But that comment led me to a search on what “elderly” is. And when it is.

According to the Social Security administration, 65 is considered elderly, though apparently, that number is being upgraded to 67 since 67 is the new retirement age. According to the AMA, 65 is considered elderly. (As in, “The elderly, i.e. those over 65, are most susceptible to the flu.”) The US Census Bureau considers middle age to be 45 to 65, with the assumption that over 65 is elderly, but one does not go immediately from being middle aged to being elderly, from usefulness to uselessness, from vigor to enfeeblement, but apparently there is no word in the official lexicon — or any lexicon — for this younger older demographic.

Other than these few mentions of what age is “elderly,” the consensus seems to be you are only as old as you feel, though that doesn’t tell me anything. “Feeling” is not the same as “being.” Humans go through a general growth arc, developing and then declining, and there does come a time that, despite what you feel, your body simply doesn’t work as well as it once did. The process is slow, so to a great extent we don’t know we are deteriorating until something happens to smack us in the face and wake us up.

The elderly, even the younger elderly, are at risk for various ailments and accidents, don’t heal as quickly, don’t process thoughts as quickly, don’t focus as quickly as when they were young. I realize this sort of determination is also subjective, but there is a cut off point for each of us when the arrows all point downward. (I’m not talking about joy of living or feeling useful and meaningful and even youthful; I’m just talking about physical things, body processes,)

A few years ago, a friend posted a blog for her birthday. She said, ‘It’s a big one. The one after “middle age” and the beginning of “elderly.” It’s difficult to fathom I’m there already. I don’t feel elderly. I’m told I don’t look elderly. However, the calendar says I am.’

I haven’t reached that “big one” yet, but I’ve often thought of her comment, especially considering the falls I recently experienced. Each fall on its own was simply an accident that could have happened to a younger person, but that they happened to me in such a short period of time makes me wonder if there was something else at work here. Maybe a slower reaction time? Maybe an extra fraction of a second before I realized what was happening? I don’t think so, but I don’t know, so I’ve been channeling my inner elder and staying inside when the streets are snowy or even wet. It’s almost comforting, in a way, to pamper this inner elder and not try to force myself to do something I’m not inclined to do anyway. (I prefer to stay inside since I’m not much for cold weather anymore. Or hot weather, either, for that matter.)

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to admit we’re elderly (though for now I still only admit to “getting older”). After all, when you eliminate the unpleasant connotations with which we’ve saddled the word, elderly merely means “olderly,” (which actually would be a cool word if there was such a thing). And anyway, according to the dictionary, an elder is an older person, especially one with a respected position in society. In this context, elderly has a connotation of wisdom rather than worthlessness.

I can live with that.

When I become elderly, that is.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Wanderlust and Wonderlust

I can already feel the wanderlust taking over, which is not altogether a good thing. I said I was going to leave my fate up to the fates, but this wanderlust is starting to dictate my future. For example, I talked to a woman today who is looking for someone to rent a room from her elderly mother, so that her mother will have companionship, and I’m hesitating. For one, I don’t want to be a companion — I need time to write and do other solitary activities when I am not walking or dancing. For another, the rent she is asking is too high since they want more from me than simply money. And finally, the place is far from the dance studio, she has a rambunctious dog, and has no internet service.

old woman

Do you see the old woman? Do you see the young woman?

And yet, at one time, it would have seemed a good deal to me. The silly thing is the woman’s age. The daughter went on and on about all the things her mother is still capable of doing, such as driving short distances and doing a bit of grocery shopping. Then she listed the things her mother was not capable of doing, such as yard work, getting herself to doctors’ appointments, and picking up a week’s worth of groceries.

I envisioned someone decrepit, and there is no way I want to deal with another old, sick, or dying person, so I asked the mother’s age. I had to have her repeat the number three times because I could not believe it. This elderly woman is my age.

Huh? I’m not elderly. Not even close! I’m not sure what the beginning date for “elderly” is, but I’m not there yet. In fact, according to the US Census, I’m still middle aged. Rapidly sliding down the banister to old age, as are we all, but I am not elderly. And certainly not suited for being a “companion.”

Still, I’ll have lunch with the woman and her daughter next week. Can’t hurt, and for all I know, we could hit it off. I do understand the mother somewhat, even unseen and unmet. The poor woman lost her husband five years ago and her brother (who lived with her) a few months ago. So much sadness and sorrow is enough to throw anyone off kilter.

Meantime, I’m savoring every minute of dance class, and dreaming of the wonders that await me when I begin my wanders.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.