How Falling Down Can Lead to Waking Up: Learning from Loss and Pain

Yves here. As much as the guest writer, Shepherd Bliss, gives important advice, I have mixed feelings about it, since I’m the just about last person to follow it. I took a very bad fall last year, on January 1 in the Atlanta airport, stupidly tripping over my shoelaces. I landed so hard on the linoleum over concrete floor that if hadn’t been weight training for 30 years, I would have broken my hip. Instead I tore my labrum and resprained an ankle.

I’m not as badly impaired as Bliss became, but without boring you with details, this is a pretty bad injury, and with my daily peregrination and exercise as my big ways of reducing stress (and yes, I do meditate), this is an even bigger deal than it might appear (as in even using the accelerator and brake on those occasions when I drive often bothers both injuries). Please don’t offer advice; I’ve been contending with orthopedic issues all my life and have spent the better part of 25 years since I sustained a bad knee injury experimenting with treatments and practitioners to find what might make a difference.

Even though Bliss has had to make difficult adjustments, he seems to have the personal and financial resources to reduce the pain. As we all know too well, that is becoming less and less true for the aging in America. I’m sure readers know of stories like this one: I have a friend who relocated to Oklahoma about a decade ago who is now 71. She moved with a partner that she discovered had stolen a lot of her savings. She took a very bad fall about a year and a half ago and shattered one leg. She can get around, not well, with a cane, and the meds she is taking have led her to gain a lot of weight. The worst is her sister, with whom she had been close, recently cut her off, with no apparent provocation. She at least can still work, but she also has to work. When I speak to her, I can too often hear the exhaustion and despair in her voice.

This is a long-winded way of saying while it would be far better to be evolved, as the New Age types like to put it, I am of the Dylan Thomas school:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I now tell everyone I see with dangling laces to tie them ASAP.

By Dr. Shepherd Bliss (, a retired college teacher, farmer, and writer in Sonoma County, California

The organic Kokopelli Farm has been my home, as well as my main work, identity, and love, for the last two-dozen years. Then I fell into a badger hole in the ground, covered by grass, on Jan. 15 this year. I crawled painfully uphill back into the house, as if I were a baby. This unwelcome anniversary will remain in my now 73-year old body and memory.

The fall plunged me into deep reflections, followed by life-changing behavior. “You must change your life” is a poetry line from Rilke that kept emerging as I spent hours each day in bed, no longer able to provide “the farmer’s shadow” with daily walks on the land, so essential to good farming.

Growing up is not always easy, even for elders like myself, closer to my death date than my birth date. Maturing can be sparked by a sudden, unexpected incident, like falling. What to do, other than feel sorry for one’s self? How can one turn an apparent loss into a learning experience and gain knowledge from it for one’s self and others?

I began by lightening my load. I decided to give away hundreds of books, DVDs, records, furniture, luggage, dog things, etc., which I had been collecting for decades.

“I call that ‘essentializing,’ commented Alexandra Hart of Transition Sebastopol’s monthly Elders Salon, which has been happening since 2010. “Aging makes one slower, so it means simplifying and seems to require letting go of stuff.”

“We’ve noticed in the Elders Salon that loss almost inevitably brings some kind of gain,” Hart added.

I’ve appreciated the smiles of friends and strangers as they load up books and other things, taking them on a journey into their lives and homes. I’m even asked to autograph some of the 24 books to which I have contributed, reminding me that I can at least still write, even though my body has been diminished. I can still grab a pen, which is how this old-fashioned writer starts every article or book chapter, only using the computer for revisions.

The fall, though deeply painful into my vulnerable knee and neck, became a blessing in disguise. Many friends brought me chicken soup, other food, and helped lessen my isolation. I listened to their stories of having fallen, being sick, and experiencing excruciating pain. I now appreciate even more living in the small town of Sebastopol with its caring community.

Loss, Identity, Function, and Control

“Loss can be conceptualized along three intersecting axes: loss of control, loss of identity, and loss of relationships,” writes Dr. Barbara Sourkes in her book “The Deepening Shade: Psychological Aspects of Life-Threatening Illness.”

My identity as a farmer has considerable importance to me. I farm most days of the year. After my fall, I have been unable to farm for weeks—such a loss. Among my losses have been many basic body functions and control. I have also had to change my self-image and body-image. Being more dependent on others than usual has been a stretch. I’ve had identities other than as a farmer, especially as teacher and writer.

I’m used to having a good, solid bowel movement every morning, on schedule, which I looked forward to. Yet for two weeks after my fall I had no bowel movements and lost 15 pounds, which is 10% of my weight. What a relief when I began gaining weight and had my first bowel movements, though they came out mainly as liquid.

“When I’m physically drained, I often don’t feel like talking,” a client told Dr. Sourkes. As an introvert, though also a public person, I sometimes feel the same. Some friends have worn me down by their needs to talk, talk, talk. “I’m all talked out,” I say at times, which can make me feel like the bad guy.

My fall dramatically changed my self-image and body-image. I now consider myself temporarily (hopefully) disabled. I notice others with canes and am more cautions with my movements, which have been limited. As my friend David Goff writes, “Falling is scary.”

Friends Tell Their Stories

Instead of hiding my fears, I have been sharing them with friends, some of whom report their own stories. “You strike a familiar chord of vulnerability that we all face, especially in our later years,” observed body-worker Jeff Rooney. “I work with many people now older than I and a big theme is falling and fear of falling. People know from observing others that falling is often a step away from dying. A hip breaks and before you know it, the person is gone.”

Being in bed alone for hours can be boring, oh so boring. Add some pain and it can be even worse, with sleep being difficult. At times I have felt distant and even absent from this now-broken body.

“With my long illness I have had to reevaluate what I can do, which is tied to who I am,” writes my friend Janus Matthes. “Passing along our worldly goods is a positive action as we round third base.”

“I chose to embrace and not fight age and what goes with aging–less energy, more simplicity, enjoy what things truly feed my soul,” she added. “We are such a youth culture in this country. As I age, I realize we all have our day in the sun and hope the youthful generations take full advantage of their time on this most amazing planet.”

“Reflecting on my upcoming April hip replacement and the 3 surgeries I’ve had in the past 4 years has put me through many changes and changed the way I look at life, see myself and look at the world,” said my neighbor Robert Teller. “It has taken me on many journeys, altered my life style, challenged my spiritual core and offered me an inner peace that I have not known before.”

One date stands out in my recovery: Jan. 27, which was my most painful day. I’ve never contemplated taking my life, except on that day. That extreme pain, accompanied by crying and screaming, educated me about why some people commit suicide. Fortunately, I had a strong painkiller. I took it reluctantly and was finally able to sleep. Blessed Be!

One means of taking some control of one’s life as a person feels loosing it because of sickness or something else is to do what I am doing here — write it down.

So what have I been learning from my fall and the subsequent shut-in? Now I know, in my body, that one day it’s going to all be over and now I am a step closer to death. I’ve been here before, in my mind, but now I feel it in my soul and in the core of who I am.

Humans are so “fragile,” my brother Steve Bliss recently reminded me about we two-footeds. I am actually now three-footed, since I walk with a cane, to stabilize myself, but that should eventually change. “Tomorrow’s a new day,” my brother reminded me, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote.

This learning experience is still evolving. So where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I feel suspended between the no-longer and the not-yet.

Or as the elder Doug von Koss recently quoted a Sufi saying, “We have three days to live, and two of them are gone.”

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  1. Doug Hillman

    Shoe laces are a hazard and waste of time (at my age). It’s loafers, velcro runners, or slip-on motorcycle boots for me. Once caught a lace loop under my motorcycle brake pedal — scary. Yes, I know, motorcycles are slightly more hazardous than loose shoelaces, but just so exhilarating.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have very high arches and need to wear running shoes that lace up. Only a very few brands have sufficient cushioning and allow me to get them tight enough to support my arch, even wearing a special insole. And all have insanely long laces. I have to double the bow.

        1. MichaelSF

          Thanks for the info on the speedlaces, I hadn’t heard of them. I’m going to get some of those for my wife to try in her shoes.

      1. Jean

        For people that make two loops and then put one under the other, go around a second time.

        Cinch them up, then do the preliminary cross over then take the two loops and put one under the other and go around a SECOND time. The laces will not come undone but can be loosened by pulling one of the loose ends.

        It’s moments like this that I see the disadvantages of English.

        It took me fifty years of retying my laces until a wise hiker showed me this technique.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I double knot them routinely. I still managed to loosen the knots without realizing it on the first leg of my flight trying to get my feet in a comfortable spot under the seat in front of me when I had a bag there too.

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      There is a nifty knot one can tie that just about never comes undone and it is basically the same as the classic shoe knot (not to be confused with tying the loops). You just double the turn around the first loop and then (as normal) pull the second loop through both turns (only carefully). That’s it, except that you usually have to adjust the knot a little as you (slowly) tighten it for it to come out right. It’s actually part of a class of knots that distinguish themselves by that adjustment phase for correct completion.

      Anyway, it rarely if ever comes undone. Even looks good. Before learning it, I was a miracle walking since my laces were always always loose by the end of the day.

      an example with clear video

  2. Lee

    Even though Bliss has had to make difficult adjustments, he seems to have the personal and financial resources to reduce the pain.

    That is most definitely a key factor enabling me to persist these last ten years with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and nagging pain from old skeletal injuries from heavy work and intemperate sporting during my misspent my youth. I recently watched the film Unrest, about people with CFS. Their symptoms were in many cases more severe than mine. While none appeared to be wealthy, none of them seemed bereft of resources and social support. The main problem affecting all is lack of money for research into the disease and the recent gradually abating belief by doctors that the condition is a form of malingering. I imagine those less well off with this condition, who were not represented in the film are either dead or deep down a hell hole living squalid anonymity. Take care of the physical and emotional needs and the spirit will follow.

    1. Dirk77

      Unrest had an interesting piece with an immunologist. She said that CFS people appeared to have a limit in how active they could be. If they worked within it they were fine but beyond that they crashed. And the limit varied from person to person. As if some virus had disrupted the energy pathways within their cells and the spread of the virus before it was snuffed out by the immune system determined their consequent state. This would point to the DNA of the affected cells being altered possibly. I’m far from being an expert, but it doesn’t sound beyond what I’ve heard about viruses elsewhere.

  3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I am reminded of the Japanese Daruma doll (Asahi Imports, from Google search):

    Because of their ability to return to their original position even when pushed over, they have become synonymous with a popular Japanese phrase “Nana korobi yaoki” (七転び八起き) which means “fall down seven times, get up eight.” The most common Daruma doll has red robes and a white or peach face

    1. HotFlash

      And it is common that when starts a project to buy (or receive from supporters) a daruma and paint in one eye. The other eye gets painted in when the project is finished. wikipedia

  4. Roxan

    Women start falling after 50 according to my GP.. Often just fall for no particular reason! When my mother fell at age 88 and broke her pelvis and right shoulder, she exclaimed “I never knew that could happen!”

    1. flora

      “Women start falling after 50 according to my GP.”

      Tai Chi is very good for strengthening the sense of balance. It’s slow and gentle. There 3 different styles of tai chi. Some classes are organized for seniors and beginners. If you want to try tai chi local hospitals/med centers or parks&rec departments may offer classes. See this from Harvard Med.

      … Tai chi is especially useful for improving balance and preventing falls—a major concern for older adults…..

      Studies have shown tai chi to reduce falls in seniors by up to 45%, Dr. Wayne says.

      1. roxan

        I agree! I plan to start soon. I found doing physical therapy in a warm pool very useful for strengthening my bad knees and bad back. A good way to start exercising for anyone who is really out-of-shape, too. I suspect weak thighs are a big factor in falls.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I think you need a new GP. Read up on expectancy theory. You do not want to have someone expecting you to fall, particularly as young as 50. Quite honestly, I think the issue is more that people who fall over 50 (as opposed to say, over 60 or 70, where people who don’t exercise regularly can start having balance issues) don’t recover from injuries anywhere near as well as younger people, so they wind up in the doctor’s offfice. And women generally have more joint laxity, which makes them more likely to get injured from the same stress or shock as a man. So instead of nursing a sprain for ten days, they are more likely to wind up with a longer-lasting joint problem or a bone break.

      Tripping over a shoe lace and going down hard is not “falling” in the sense he means, it’s an accident every bit as much as being knocked over. Plus studies have found that weight training improves balance and coordination more than exercises designed to improve balance and coordination. I was hit by a car at low speed about four years ago hard enough to be bruised severely and stumbled sideways without falling. I think most people, including young people, would have taken a fall. I was actually very surprised that I was able to keep myself upright.

      1. ChrisPacific

        The accident statistics I’ve seen suggest that the elderly are at no more danger of falling than the young (you’d think they would be due to mobility limitations, but I guess most are aware of them and compensate). Rather the higher injury rate occurs because the consequences for them when they do fall tend to be much more severe.

          1. ChrisPacific

            Source, just to make sure I’m not steering you wrong:


            This study was looking at the 50 years and up range, but even there you can see the effect in play. 85+ year olds are moderately more at risk of falling than 50-65 year olds (about double as often) but greatly more likely to be admitted to hospital as a result (15 times more often).

            The ACC site also has a tool for searching accident stats by type, age range etc. but unfortunately shows only totals and not percentage of population – you would need to cross check against census data to get the correct numbers. However as a quick sanity check, there were slightly under twice as many fall accidents in the 20-49 age range (30 years) than the 50-64 range (15 years). So if we assume a roughly even frequency distribution, it seems that 50-64 year olds are at only slight extra risk of falling compared to 20-49 year olds.

        1. Anon

          Yves, you’re lucky to have discovered the importance of weight-training many years before its importance to balance and injury protection became clear.

          My local community college has a Life Fitness Center that encourages/demands weight-training instruction in all PE classes. It’s hard to get folks to understand that the skeletal muscles demand strain (extra weight) to challenge the body to get/stay strong. It is especially important for folks over 40/50 as they exchange muscle density for body fat and think they are fit (at the same body weight); they are not. I’ve listened (on the radio) to real orthopedic doctors proclaim high-repetition low-weight workouts to be superior; the data and science says otherwise.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Most women even when they do weight train don’t lift anywhere near heavy enough weights. I see this with young women all the time. It’s as if they are afraid of getting muscular when that’s the point (and only women who are genetically disposed to bulk up, which is close to no one, and women who use steroids, get big).

            1. Anon

              Few women get “cut” like a man from weight-training, as you indicated. The reason is both biological and morphological. Getting large muscles requires a certain amount of testosterone (anabolic steroids is a substitute for female/male body builders) and it requires more “fast twitch” muscle fibers that enlarge/multiply during weight- training. Women, as a group, have fewer “fast twitch” muscle fiber than men, but more “slow twitch” fibers, which is more conducive to stamina sports (distance running, swimming, etc.) But women do get stronger from weight-training, but you don’t see them getting “cut” because they have a layer of epidermal tissue that masks muscle detail. But I can assure you, every women’s athletic program (college level) has a strength program, especially focused on strengthening the large muscles in the body (legs, butt, and lats). Then the core muscles are honed to transmit that power through the torso, and also improve balance.

              The science behind muscle improvement is fairly clear now. The muscle is an “all or nothing” fiber bundle that requires sufficient stress (weight) to activate ALL the muscle fibers in the bundle to generate growth (strength). Finding the proper stress (weight) takes some time to discover for every body, but it is closer to strong exertion than most appreciate. The plus of weight training is that is usually done in a safe, controlled setting and once you learn the proper techniques, can be performed in 30 minutes, or so.

              Also, understand that proper nutrition is essential to muscle growth/strength.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                No, the “getting cut” part is a function of getting your body fat down. It requires having adequate muscle before hand. so you do need to have exercised enough to get that, but you do not need high testosterone. I’ve been in gyms with both women and men “natural” bodybuilders. Women don’t get “cut” anywhere near as easily because they natively have markedly higher bodyfat than men (15% for a “normal” man v. 25% for a “normal” woman, a huge difference). To get it low enough to look “cut” (to a bodyfat level of below ~ 10%) means they lose their periods. Most women, even the ones who like a really athletic look, aren’t willing to do that for more than on a short-term basis.

                Bodybuilders bulk up and then go through a typically 6-8 week period of “dieting down” where they eat and exercise in a specific way to lower their body fat while preserving as much muscle mass as possible. The days before contest, they take diuretics and do other weird stuff.

                Plus most women don’t want to look cut. Per above, it’s unnatural and looks butch.

                See Terminator 2 for an example. Personally I was in awe of how fit Linda Hamilton was, but look at how gaunt her face was. That shows how lean she’d gotten.

        2. Daryl

          I had thought to mention this in the comments and was worried about not being sensitive enough — I am glad it has been addressed. It is the most reliable way to increase and maintain bone density, but unfortunately seems to be underrated by society in general but especially for women and the elderly.

          Another related issue is the ability to get up off the ground without using aid. This is a good predictor of all-cause mortality. I suspect that weight training is also beneficial for this though I don’t know that it has been studied.

    3. Whoa Molly!

      As I age, I notice my balance deteriorating slightly each year. I am 73, and my balance is noticeably poorer than even 10 years ago.

      I am probably more aware of my gradual loss of balance than most people, because I do an hour or so of yoga every day, including balance-sensitive standing poses.

      Loss of balance appears to be a ‘silent’ process. If I hadn’t been practicing yoga I wouldn’t know my balance was deteriorating until I fell and broke something.

      Although I love yoga, it’s been difficult to find yoga teachers who are skilled enough to teach a mid-70’s male.

      Some teachers don’t like to see unsightly old people in class. Others see an old person and water down the poses so much they are useless. And even others teach full-on poses like shoulder stand–that are in my opinion inappropriate for elderly, stiff, unconditioned bodies.

      When I was younger I was a fairly serious Tai Chi student for a decade. I believe that Tai Chi is an excellent option for people in their 70’s.

      Summary: Go with Tai Chi. Good stuff for bodies of all ages, and it’s relatively easy to find good teachers. Plus there’s a cultural tradition in Tai Chi of elderly masters and students.

    4. HotFlash

      “Women start falling after 50 according to my GP.”

      Yeah, I have had that pitched to me, too. I don’t actually think that we do. They diagnosed me with osteoporosis, without any previous bone density to compare it to. The Dr told me, “You will have more bone breaks.” S’cuse me, first broken bone in 40 yrs (tiny bone in foot) and the gerontologist (waaaaah 9!!!%%%^^^&&&) had a pronounced dowagers hump. I was less than impressed. I told her, “Sorry Dr. F, but osteoporosis is what *you* have, not what I have.”

      Oh, I have twice been ‘escorted’ out of hospitals by security — “non compliant”.

      Pity, that. I completely support their stated objectives, just not what actually happens.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        See the comment above from ChrisPacific. It’s an urban legend. Doctors see more people over 50 who have fallen because they get more serious injuries than young people. Not just bone breaks but even the minor stuff like sprains heal faster and lead to fewer MD visits.

        I am also not sure how good some of the bone density tests are. The normal bone density test uses the heel bone, and I can tell you in my case it would give a misleading reading because I minimize the heel strike in the way I walk. I would think that other people who have odd gaits could have similar issues.

        1. HotFlash

          Ding ding ding! I have improved my walk and a lot of other ‘normal’ movement with Feldenkrais. I tire less easily, my shoes last longer (!!!), and even my handwriting is better. Not to boost F’krias esp, but to suggest that we can make our bodies work better if we pay attention and work at it.

  5. RUKidding

    Interesting article, combined with your own personal story, Yves, and that of your friend in OK. Having spent a good part of the past 2 decades caring for elder relatives, I’ve observed how the loss of mobility, in particular, can very deleterious to the point of leading rather quickly to shuffling off this mortal coil. Not necessarily in every case, but one has to be vigilent.

    It certainly makes a huge difference if you have money, and even more so, if you have some sort of good support system. If you are missing out on both – as was the case with now deceased friend of mine – it can lead almost inevitably to depression and worse.

    The point about lightening your load is well taken. A good friend and I are of a certain age; we both just moved into new, smaller houses. We are both commenting on how essential it is NOW to lighten our loads and get rid of stuff. First world problem, for sure, but amazing how much one can accumulate over the years. Best to let as much go as soon as possible. That time, for me, is now.

    Best wishes to anyone struggling with medical and mobility issues, especially if pain is involved. So far, I’ve been spared that, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.

  6. curlydan

    Even in my late 40s, I definitely have similar feeling to the author. In the last year (and for some maladies, years before), I’ve dealt with bad blood counts, a broken wrist, a minor foot ailment, a broken hand, and what I think is a rotator cuff issue. It definitely speaks to the increasing fragility of the human body as we age. And all I can think of while suffering through these is “will I be able to coach soccer anymore?” (my biggest hobby) and “will I be able to hike anywhere good in the future?” or at worst “will my kids grow up without me?”.

    Through all this, the biggest thing may be to remember, “slow down”. We can accomplish a lot but the body can only do so much as it ages. I hurt my foot a few weeks ago kicking field goals with my son. Yes, I kicked a 28 yard field goal, but did I really need to do that? Not at a cost of limping around for 2 weeks and thinking I had some serious issue. I think I’ll be the “holder” from now on.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I would have a slightly different take on this. Its certainly true that its unwise to act like you are too young – lots of things your body can take at 25 it can’t take at 45. But sometimes the act of ‘slowing down’ can itself set off the changes that weaken your body. There is plenty of evidence that, for example, quite intense exercise, especially resistence work, is if anything even more important as you grow older.

      But you need to be smart about it and be aware that your body changes and you need to alter your diet and exercise. I know some doctors interested in this who recommend, for example, that as you get older you should reduce your gym visits (assuming you are a gym bunny), but increase the focus and intensity of your workouts. In other words, give yourself more rest and recovery, but increase the quality of your exercise. And you need to look at things like making sure you have enough calcium and magnesium in your diet. Bone and muscle loss is not inevitable as you grow old.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Agreed, exercise is hugely beneficial. I see this when we take my now 90 year old mother on vacation. Where we go has steep steps up to the second floor, and the first floor has such a high ceiling that it is like going up two flights. She needs someone near her to make sure she doesn’t fall but after just a few days not only is she always getting up and down those stairs better but she walks better generally as a result of having taxed herself a bit.

        The big issue is wear on the joints and you have to start being more strategic when that happens, and it generally happens faster if you have underlying misalignments or do exercises that are inefficient, as in load the joints more than necessary.

        I see a ton of that in my gym and it drives me crazy, like guys lifting heavier weights than they can manage, basically flinging them in a movement that kinda looks like a typical weight lifting exercise, like a biceps curl, but largely bypasses the muscle and puts a lot of stress on their joints.

        The biggest is the fad for jumping. They put the energy of the movement back into your body rather than transferring it into movement. People should not be doing jumps unless they can squat 150% of their body weight, as in if you weigh 180 lbs, you can do a single rep (warming up helps) carrying 270 lbs. I guarantee 0% of the people I see doing ballistic exercises are that strong. They are just setting themselves for joint problems way sooner than they would have suffered them otherwise.

        1. Anon

          Yves, you are very astute and knowledgeable with your understanding of physical training. (Why should I be surprised?) The jumping fad is a takeoff (no pun) from pliometrics, it is intended for already fit/strong athletes to develop the explosion needed in performing a dynamic sport. However, it is dangerous for regular folks because the impact of landing hard creates enormous pressure on the body; injuries abound.

          Intense workouts should only be performed after getting professional instruction. Especially for those in the 40/50 age range. The mid-twenty macho man recovers from injury much quicker than the dad bod.

          1. Lost in OR

            About three years ago I got fed up with the aches in my joints and the persistent run-down feeling. I’m 61yo. So I started taking kick-boxing. I still have aches and pains, but now it’s my muscles instead of my joints. And my energy level is as good as it has ever been.

            I like your poem. I rage at the passivity of the world. Burn and rave…. I like that. Haha, namaste.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            Right, pliometrics was a fad in NYC 10 or even more years ago, and trainers were having garden variety, even out of shape clients doing them. I had a really hard time keeping my mouth shut. I was appalled.

            The new fad is jumping up onto a pretty high flat surface, as high as you can jump. At least some of the gyms have heavily padded boxes for this purpose….but then I see people jump off to repeat down to the regular floor, obviating the purpose of using a padded box. And in other gyms, I see people jumping up onto not at all well padded benches or Reebox steps. Aieee! Surgery futures.

        2. PlutoniumKun

          I wasn’t aware of that fad for jumping (maybe because my gym does supervised exercise only), but it sounds horrible. I should say though that gentle hopping in the ‘speedskater’ move is sometimes recommend for keen cyclists, who can suffer from bone issues due to the exercise being ‘unloaded’.

          I’ve an aunt who was 101 last November. She has a weekly visit from a physio (a very handsome one so her son tells me) who gives her a workout with weights and an exercise bike. She still walks everywhere around her village unaided. She was a district maternity nurse in a rural area and would have spent many years attending women on her bike in the west of Ireland, no doubt that gave her incredible strength and stamina.

  7. XXYY

    I now tell everyone I see with dangling laces to tie them ASAP.

    One suggestion I can offer here is speedlaces, which are elastic cords that replace the traditional shoelace and are adjusted (once!) to fit.

    Not only do they never come untied and have no dangerous ends to dangle, they also allow the shoe to be pulled on and off instantly, and (I assume because they have some give) they make the shoes a lot more comfortable to wear.

    A huge innovation for the human race, right up there with fire and sliced bread. I have not tied a shoe in years.

  8. freedeomny

    A series of “athletic” falls led to the recommendation that I have one of my hips replaced while still relatively young. I held off until my mid 50’s since an artificial hip can only last so many years and I quite frankly didn’t want to have it replaced again in my 70’s or 80’s. Of course “holding off” meant I put a lot of strain on my stronger hip – resulting in that too having to be replaced – 3 years after my first. My surgery was 2 1/2 weeks ago and it was an eye opening experience. I am doing incredibly well – was out of the hospital in less than 24 hours and only on Tylenol for pain in less than a week. But…but….my view of the medical community/hospitals, insurance companies and pain management perspectives has changed dramatically. I told one of my nieces that I don’t regret going through the experience of having been essential disabled – and I don’t. It has changed me for the better. But, I am fortunate that I was able to plan in some ways that others can not. And I am sure of one thing – that if we don’t get Medicare for all or some other universal health care, our country will be in big trouble.

  9. Craig H.

    Slips, Trips, and Falls are the biggest industrial lost time accidents next to automobile accidents in every safety audit sheet I ever saw.

    If anybody knows of a good book or website which fits industry safety engineering practice to making one’s home and recreation spaces safer I would be very interested in seeing it. Falling downstairs can really mess you up. I will be forever in your debt if you can give me data on this: nobody ever (well almost never) has an accident going upstairs and people often have accidents going downstairs yet if your workplace has a “handrail rule” nobody in the safety department has a clue what this means. I have been looking for years for a study or a document or something which shows 99% (or whatever) of people who injure themselves on the stairs are going downstairs but if anybody has ever done the study they never publicized the thing. Google on (stairway accident upstairs downstairs) seems like it ought to be the perfect tool for this job. Yes?

    This has never provide an answer to my question in years of looking.

  10. PlutoniumKun

    Its a little unfortunate, but it is certainly true that sometimes we need a physical shock to realise just how important it is to maintain health and strength. Nearly 10 years now I was in a serious accident that left me temporarily disabled – I felt literally like an old man for many months, moving only with great difficulty and having to deal with people not wanting to meet my look (I had serious facial injuries, thankfully not long lasting). I will never forget the intensity of the pain and the frustration of not having my body do what I’m used to as I’m generally very active and outdoorsy. I was fortunate to have a sympathetic employer so I never feared for my financial future during my recovery (even then, I went back to work far too early and paid the price in a relapse).

    The positive side is that I now don’t take any muscle or joint or any other part of my body for granted. I work intensively on core strength and muscle stength and healthy eating and I work hard on keeping my old injuries at bay. It can be very time consuming and of course if I run under the proverbial bus it will have been pretty fruitless. But I recently met a super fit former colleague who is playing competitive tennis in his mid-70’s (and beating people 3 decades younger) – seeing how great his quality of life is compared to so many people I know who went into visible decline as soon as they started on their 7th decade reinforces just how important it is to look after yourself. Needless to say, you can’t avoid a random loose lace or a badger hole, but you can significantly reduce your risk if you work at it.

  11. makedoanmend

    “God grant me the serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change;
    Courage to change the things I can;
    And wisdom to know the difference. …”

    1. Chris

      …and the street smarts to bury the bodies of those I had to kill because they really p***ed me off.”

  12. Mike Mc

    Shoelaces! Wife (late 50s) walking for exercise and her right shoelace was snagged by a strand at the bottom of a chain link fence and dropped her face first on the sidewalk. Miraculously she somehow avoided any serious injury; a couple driving by saw it happen and made sure she was okay. She made sure the Catholic school who owned the fence knew what happened and had it fixed.

    We do water aerobics (me in my early 60s) three times a week at a local fitness center, and will add Pilates and weights soon to keep our Midwestern mom and dad bods strong, or at least strong enough.

    I’m also a New Balance addict and have worn their ‘trail runner’ sneakers for years – I’m a computer repair tech and spend a lot of time on my feet on crap floors – concrete with crummy carpeting. The trail runner models offer ‘off-road’ style soles which is useful when several months of winter include ice, snow, slush, sand (worse than ice sometimes once the ice has melted) and gravel.

    Handrails are generally your friends in slick or steep conditions, but test them first! A good shake to see if they’re firmly anchored before trusting them. And from my college rock climbing days, the three-point rule: make sure three of your four points (hands and feet) are secure before making a move when you’re unsure of your footing, the terrain or any combination thereof.

    My late mother’s knees wore out before she ever took a tumble – years of dance as a girl then ballroom and line dancing well into her late 80s probably helped (she died at 95).

    Traveling to Japan in May, my first overseas trip ever, so will test out speedlaces and probably add a pair of Keen slip-ons too – my Merrells do okay but a little too loosey-goosey (great for air travel though).

    Stay safe out there!

    1. rd

      New Balance, LL Bean, Merrell, and Red Wing (different types of applications). Different models use different lasts, so I often have to try on several types of shoes or boots before finding one that works, but once I find it, I keep buying them.

      The LL Bean black Comfort Moccasins are inexpensive and surprisingly comfortable with good arch support and they are slip ons. They won’t pass as wing tips, but for most business casual applications they work fine. I replace them about every two years as pronation causes the soles to deform.

      I nearly always double-knot laces to shorten them and prevent them from coming undone. Shoelaces are particularly nasty around escalators and moving walkways. I have seen people get very surprised and nearly end up in a nasty position.

      Collapsible hiking poles are also very useful on rugged terrain. They are probably good for the elderly in urban settings. They even add an upper body component to a hike. Unfortunately, you can’t take them in carry-on luggage but you can get inexpensive ones at Wal-Marts etc. that are cheaper than paying baggage fees two-ways.

    2. Dwight

      I’m a big fan of Altra running shoes. Zero-drop sole from heel to toe, meaning no heel elevation, and wide toe box to allow toes to splay out naturally. The zero-drop takes a little time to get used to because it stretches the calves. They have running shoes, trail shoes, and street shoes built on their running shoes. I use the running shoes for weight and dance training too, because the zero-drop heel gives me lateral stability not as easily found in an elevated heel running shoe designed for running forward. All this is just my opinion – I’m no shoe expert. New Balance are great too – they have some of the widest toe boxes in running shoes.

  13. a different chris

    Good read. Of course there was:

    >I decided to give away … dog things …

    Wait, what? Was the dog consulted on this? Seriously, I’m assuming he had valued pets and kept what were mementos to him but might be more useful for new people and their new dogs. But I don’t think the author would resent my little grin at the toss-off phrasing.

  14. windsock

    Yes and no…

    Illness imposes restrictions upon us – but there is no reason why we should not push as hard against them as we can to establish where our boundaries truly lie, instead of accepting an acquiescence to the inevitable.

    I’ve had an AIDS diagnosis for 25 years, with infections of PCP, KS and cryptococcal meningitis. Last year I was diagnosed with cancer on the brachial nerve in my face and went in for 12 hour surgery to have it cut out and a radial flap skin graft fill in the hole. The day after I came out of hospital I received a diagnosis for anal cancer.

    In October I had five-days-a-week radiotherapy for six weeks on both my face and backside.

    The cancer specialist told me cancer will change me and it will take a year to get back to normal.

    Two weeks ago I celebrated my 60th birthday (it was hard work, but nothing was going to stop me…I probably won’t get another birthday with a “0” in it). I am planning events with friends and try to cram in as much joy and beauty as I can (as well as a bit of political activism because I’d like to leave this place fractionally better than I found it!) But there are times my body just says just “get real” and I curl up in a ball and rest.

    I’m lucky. I’m in a metropolis. Services are nearby. Friends are numerous. My biggest fear, obviously, is hearing the surgery/radiotherapy has not worked… not because I’ll die but because I will have to say goodbye to friends I love dearly and they won’t be able to make the next journey with me.

    But I’m not selling the memorabilia just yet or scaling back on ambitions. There’s a whole world out there and it’s a stage and I hear a tune to which I would like to dance on it…

    Thanks for letting me share. And thank heavens for the NHS.

    1. HotFlash

      Namaste, my dear Windsock. My own prayer is to have just enough time to say, “Oh, *(&%*&);^!” Reading you, though, I think perhaps I may be wrong?

      1. windsock

        No, not wrong. I would never have wished to go through the things I have. An “Oh, *(&%*&);^!” exit would have been fine by me , but having said that, there is also another saying: “That which does not kill us can only make us stronger”, and it’s that which I have adopted as my motto. While it may obviously not be true physically, I certainly apply it mentally which helps me deal with the physicality.

        Best wishes, and hoping your “Oh, *(&%*&);^!” moment is much delayed.

  15. Patricia

    Best wishes to you, Yves, from a fellow decrepit-body sufferer. Can’t help but get angry sometimes, and plain sad other times, but after it all falls out, there’s still delight available in a limited and slower world. I think that has surprised me most, how beauty is nearly endless, if one is capable of looking for it.

    The other surprise, for me, is how much we’re still the same persons, well-bodied or not. Severe pain and problems like alzheimers take it away, but short of that, we remain to the end. Very satisfactory!

  16. Ancient 1

    I read the Bliss article and the comments. I am 81 years old. As Ursula Le Guin writes in her book, “No Time to Spare” chapter titled, “The Diminished Thing”, I am “Old”. I accept that description and live with it every day as do most of my contemporaries, recognizing that the sand is fast running down in the glass. My internal med. guy tells me that I am in good health for my age. He never mentions the Follicular Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that I live with and treat like my body’s boarder. So, do I have a fear of falling ? Yes, I do, but I do weight training three days a week which I have doing for some sixty years and yoga the rest of the time. These activities help with keeping strong muscle mass, balance and flexibility. I won’t go into how my diet works but it contributes to my health. I know the day will come when I am no longer able to do these things, but aging is a gift in a way, an act of nature, accept it and make the best of it as my old dog did in his waning year. Be happy and find joy in life every day. Apologize for the length of this comment.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Free yoga and weight training (I think mandatory is a bit too pushy) when one becomes eligible for Social Security would be great.

  17. David

    It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the best results for older people are achieved by strength training exercises, often taking only a few minutes a day. What’s known as High Intensity Training can achieve an awful lot. In my later 60s I have as much physical strength as I had twenty years ago and (fingers crossed) have never fallen, in spite of being naturally clumsy. For anyone who is interested there’s a lot of Youtube videos, and also a book (and e-book) by a well-known British exercise physiologist:

  18. P

    Hi Yves,

    A lifelong orthopedics sufferer here (scoliosis as a teenager, herniated disc at 18, spinal fusion at 24, rotator cuff repair surgery at 43, yada yada) here, so I can commiserate. I, too, had an untied-shoelace disaster a few years ago while walking back from the grocery store with 30 lbs of food in a backpack and in bags. I can still play the whole thing in slow motion in my mind despite it happening in a small fraction of a second. Such falls are accelerated downward by the fact that your leg that is rising when its loose lace goes taught, and it in effect levers you downward much faster than if you had simply fallen over. In my case I did permanent damage to my wrists but I still consider myself lucky because if I hadn’t gotten my hands out insanely quickly I would have landed on my face and likely incurred dental injuries that I can’t really afford to fix. My wrists hurt but I can still play my guitar, so all in all I got off lucky.

    BTW, when I got home the second thing I did was cut my too-long shoelaces; previously I’d double-tied them as you do, and I’d recommend you cut your laces ASAP. Ironically, I hadn’t cut them before because I thought it was somehow “wasteful” of the material. BTW, the first thing I did was ice my wrists, as I know from long experience that most orthopedic advice comes down to ice and Motrin. Sigh.


  19. Edward E

    A large tree limb knocked me off the house, a result of the January, 2009 ice storm that stretched from Texas to Missouri and across to WV. Busted up pretty good, broken femur where it turns to go into the hip socket and crushed heel beyond repairs. Am tougher than a rhino but occasionally still have rough patches. Sleep is essential, makes you stronger. Lack of sleeping makes it feel like hip replacement surgery may need to be done eventually. Managing weight and a Mediterranean diet has helped the bones and depression a lot. Wouldn’t wish broken anything on anybody, just reading about it sends shivers up and down.

    1. freedeomny

      Edwards E – yes you are so right about the sleeping….it helped me heal after surgery and helped keep me going prior to. Some supplements are better than others – I use/d a melatonin blend by Trader Joes that worked well for me.

  20. Wukchumni

    Falls happen when you least expect them in the backcountry, and we were 6 miles out on a Memorial Day trip 6 years ago, nearing the middle fork of the Kaweah River and crossing some slanted granite, when all of the sudden I was launched onto my back on account of stepping on something just a little wet and a lot slippery, fracturing my left shoulder in the process. It was a mile back to where we were camped and mostly uphill, and once we got back I was in a lot of pain that wine seemed to alleviate somewhat, and sleep was near to impossible as I waited for daybreak to emerge.

    We fashioned an arm sling out of the lid of my backpack for me, and everybody carried parts of my backpack & contents back for me. As long as I kept going the pain was manageable, but when I stopped @ any time on the 6 mile walk back, it intensified. I remember the worst pain was in driving back home on twisty mountain roads, ha!

    The key to getting hurt in the wilderness, is always hope it’s an upper body injury somehow, otherwise you have no mobility in getting out.

  21. Whoa Molly!

    Agree with Yves and others on the weight training.

    Unfortunately after not-repairable rotator cuff and bicep tears an orthopedic surgeon limited me to “5 pounds max” from now on.

    After a lot of research I found the Heavy Hands system. It gives much of the benefits of weight training with very light weights.

    Leonard Schwartz developed the system after finding that nordic skiiers had the highest oxygen uptake of any athletes. Reasoning that they were in this condition because of whole-body movement and light weights (ski poles) at the end of their arms he developed the Heavy Hands system.

    This book explains the science and how to do it.

    As in all exercise recommendations, YMMV.

    1. Anon

      Nordic skiers (competitive ones) have an innate VO2 max (big lungs that are oxygen efficient) that matches a particular body type (powerful upper legs/long slim calves) that allows them to maintain/generate propulsion for long periods of time. Unfortunately, the light poles are a minor component of current competitive cross-country skier performance.

  22. tongorad

    This is something I need to get over, but this oldster finds gyms to be horrible places, filled with the kind of creepy Type-A freaks that I try to out of my way to avoid. And talk about youth oriented!
    Somebody needs to start a chain a no-one-under-the-age-of-50 gyms/fitness centers.

    1. Whoa Molly!

      Yes, many gyms feel that way. But it’s not real.

      I found that the serious weight trainers were actually fairly supportive once they learned that I too was serious. Serious in this context means you show up on regular schedule, and focus on doing your work.

      I was extremely self conscious and awkward the first time I spread a yoga mat in the ‘dance’ studio. It was probably the hardest thing I did in the past few years of doing yoga at the gym.

      Over time I shared the space with Zumba dancers, physical therapists with their clients, weight lifters posing in front of the mirrors, kids chasing bouncy ball while mom worked out, high school football players, cheerleaders, gymnasts and many others.

      I just smiled and focused on doing my thing. Now, I’m a ‘fixture’ at the gym. The old yoga guy.

  23. Lee Robertson

    Young, strong, Spartan, combat veteran, remembering childhood table talk about high desert old-timers moving “down the valley”, and finding ones self the new old-timer. Injuries ignorable when young and strong, grow increasingly long shadows.

  24. MichaelSF

    I’m almost 65 and after a missed step going down stairs (in a house that has a stairway almost the same as mine) several years ago I’ve become a hand-rail fan.

    You don’t need to be fearful, just mindful. If the hand-rail is there, move your hand lightly along it so if you need to grab you are in position. It doesn’t seem any different than using safety glasses or hearing protectors (or wearing leathers/armor when motorcycling), it is just a sensible precaution that you hope you won’t need but are often glad you took when you do need it.

    I figure that getting the good habit ingrained before it becomes an absolute necessity is good planning on my part. Safety gear (which is what a hand-rail is) that is unused does as much good (i.e. zero) as a data backup that isn’t made before the drive and data is irretrievably lost.

    Also, it is a help if a person can stop being so proud that they won’t ask for help when they should know they need it. I think a lot of non-use of safety equipment falls into the “I’m too good at what I’m doing, I don’t need no stinkin’ safety gear because I won’t have a problem”. Been there, did that, I’m trying to break the habit before I get hurt when I could have prevented it from happening.

  25. Eustache De Saint Pierre

    Dylan was obviously still young when he wrote that & his only exercise was likely from his drinking arm. I would have always agreed with him, but not so much as I get older, particularly when considering the likely state of nursing homes if Neoliberalism holds sway. I have a plan for that eventuality as I would rather die than enter some institution that stinks of death & piss, with the possibility of being bullied – as was the case with my Grandmother before the family launched an almost military style rescue mission, devised by my ex-army Dad.

    For most of my life I have used a system of circuit training which served me pretty well, but after a lapse of a few years, i started it up again around 5 years ago as I was getting a bit paunchy & it very near killed me. I wont list my total idiocy, but just be careful is all I can say & unlike me make sure you get expert advice – now I just go for walks. The cardiologist informed me after I showed him my diary which listed an exponential weight loss for 3 days prior to being stuck under the foot of a rampaging elephant, that I had entered into a stage of malnutrition due to not raising my calorie level to fit the increased exertion, but ironically it seems it was my fitness that helped to saved me.

    During around 90 minutes in the back of an ambulance with an intermission to be stabilised at an A& E before finishing the 45 miles journey in which I had an emergency angioplasty receiving one stent. I spent most of the time when I wasn’t having one of my in total of 5 cardiac arrests, thinking about those I love & wondering while wrapped in a morphine mist, whether I would ever see them again. During the last CPR which took place on the concrete outside the entrance of the hospital, I was conscious of moving into a near death experience & recall being annoyed when the PM’s face appeared as if pushing through a membrane. I only know the details because the PM’s popped into the ward to see me & jokingly complain about the paperwork I had caused them. I occasionally bump into one who informed me that due to cuts if it happened now I would be toast.

    So as the big fella used to say in ” Hill St. Blues “, let’s be careful out there.

    As someone mentioned above, thank goodness for the NHS & the fear during that confusion was all about those I would lose & not about dying. Now I have adopted the philosophy of the Woody Allen character’s Father in ” Hannah & her Sisters “, when he stated something like ” When I am dead I will be unconscious, if not I will deal with it then “. The when & how is perhaps the problem, but if I lost the woman I love, I hope I would have the balls to choose for myself when to go on a very probable fruitless search for her.

    1. HotFlash

      an exponential weight loss for 3 days prior to being stuck under the foot of a rampaging elephant

      Oh my! Not anything I am anticipating in my circs, but do you have details? Inquiring minds and all that …

      1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

        At age 56 I was as I said trying to achieve the same level as I was at when 5 years younger, which consisted of a 100 press ups, the same in sit ups ( crunches might be the US term ) & 15 minutes of skipping. I started at around 13 stone with a target of 11 which is my ideal BMI. Up until the last few days I was losing about 2 pound a week as I gradually edged to the above target. The 3 days prior to the heart attack I lost 6 pound & on that very interesting morning I had reached 79 press ups, 63 sit ups & found that I couldn’t manage the skipping. I then had a phone call which led to me missing breakfast & having to rush around for a couple of hours before returning home & having to unload 2 40kg bags of designer clothes that my partner was selling on ebay.

        The press ups were broke up into sets of 5 amounts with a minute break between each, a system I got from my Dad who could still do 20 one armed version into his fifties. The heart attack started when I was driving home as what I thought was heartburn, it was only when it got very much worse & I realised that there was no associated gas that I suspected the worst. I also kept a record of my diet, which aside from the first couple of weeks when my appetite increased, I had kept static to help with the weight loss.

        A sorry tale of a fool.

    2. windsock

      Yes, that fear of losing those you love has been the most distressing thing for me during my experiences. That crept up on me unawares and has taught me not to take them so much for granted.

      1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

        I lost my wife to cancer around fourteen years ago to a gliablastoma multiforme grade 3 after nursing her for 16 months, which turned out to be a return of the breast cancer through metastasis she had 6 years earlier survived. I met my current partner afterwards which felt like a miracle to be so lucky in love twice. She is a fragile beauty & the thing that truly & deeply terrifies me is having to do it all again.

  26. Wyoming

    I walk and I walk and I walk. Often with a backpack on the big long distance trails like the Pacific Crest Trail.

    Since June 2012 I have walked about 15,000 miles and swam 500 miles.

    In May of 2012 I was in a horrible accident. Not counting the minor injuries I broke 4 vertebrae (1 into 10 pieces) and wiped out 6 disks. When I got out of the hospital in June I could walk about the length of the floor of the ward I was in. It took me a week to make it from the bedroom down the stairs to the kitchen. And another week to make it down the walk to the driveway and the edge of the road. Another month to make it a mile. Today I can go into the mountains with a 30 lb pack and put in a 25 mile day. Every day. Yup it hurts a fair amount. But I walk every day no matter what. I am terrified if I ever stop I will never get started again I suppose.

    I fall sometimes. You cannot do what I do and not take falls and I have had a few doozies. I will probably not get up from one someday, but come what may I am never going to stop until I can’t get up again. But that being said I hike circles around anyone I know near my age who does not do what I do.

    I think what old people should do is to walk a lot and if they do that it will keep them much more capable and have better balance then any other kind of exercise. It is kind of what we were designed to do. An 82 year old hiked the entire 2180 mile Appalachian Trail in 2017 and I see 70somes cruising along miles from nowhere all the time.

    1. Anon

      Yes, you’re correct. Walking is excellent exercise for everyone, including us oldsters (I use Medicare). But as you indicated you walk, walk, walk…and that takes time, and space and the PCT goes up and it goes down (causing all manner of exertion). For many, getting sufficient muscle exercise is quickest with a weight-training program. Aerobic dancing is great for balance and rhythm, but isn’t anywhere near the effort of a long walk on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

  27. Peter VE

    A couple years ago, I began following the advice of Philippe Petit, to develop my sense of balance by closing my eyes, then standing on one leg. If I remember right, he can easily stand 30 seconds, but then he danced between the Twin Towers. I’m happy with 10 seconds. Make sure you’re not to close to any furniture the first time you do it. I read this advice in his book “Creativity: the Perfect Crime”. Between that, and spending a lot of time standing on a boat, I’ve been improving my balance and strengthening my core.

    1. dk

      I’ve been practicing a style of kungfu called wing chun for some 40 years. Some of the two-person drills are practiced blindfolded. I just stood on one leg for 30 seconds so I could write about it honestly (wasn’t easy since I have the flu and am somewhat dizzy from it). The trick is to have a well structure posture in general. Standing on one leg, with the other leg (and arms) poised to balance (or defend or attack) is part of regular practice. One stands thus for the duration of a long incense taper, about 40 minutes. I have always been a lazy practitioner, but I can do 30 seconds with my eyes closed.

      But only on one leg, my left. My right leg is atrophied and lacks some sensation, due to a back injury (crushed L5-S1 disc) which has partially severed the nerve channels to the leg. Kungfu practice has helped me to deal with this injury, and move gracefully and effectively. However, incorrect practice/instruction contributed to the injury in the first place.

      Perhaps it’s no coincidence that wing chun’s heritage stems in large part from seafaring culture. Practice implements include a 10′ boat pole (to train throwing techniques), and a wooden dummy that resembles a ship’s mast, outfitted with angled dowel arms derived from rope cleats. On a recent sailing trip in a heavy sea. I used the wing chun rooting techniques and found that maintaining position was much easier, literally clinging to the deck like a limpet, with an erect but slightly crouched posture, grabbing the deck with my legs as if they were tweezers. Sounds nutty but it works. Fun!

      Wing chun, when taught correctly, is a complete review and de/reconstruction of human physical movement. There is (or should be) considerable attention to posture and breathing in the initial stages of instruction. One of the fun things about teaching is watching how student’s bodies change. Postures, general moods, facial expressions, even pitch of voice can all change within a few weeks.

      For better or worse, western concepts of martial arts, meditation, and health lead people to or away from the healthy physical practices of kungfu and other physical heritages. Kungfu attracts people with violent preoccupations; it’s good because these people need help with self control and proportion. But it’s unfortunate because their interest is inhibited by violet fantasies, and they rarely advance beyond rudimentary skill. The nuances of planning and strategy conveyed by the movements of the forms have much broader application throughout life. I regularly apply wing chun rules and strategies in computer systems design. The depth and value of these human heritages, expressed and transmitted through movement with few words, is beyond adequate description.

  28. Barry


    I am surprised there was no mention of ladders.
    Probably because everyone is aware of the danger
    The stats indicate males over 50 are the bulk of the victims.
    Suggestion: Pick an age at which you no longer use one

  29. AnnieB

    At age 68, I’ve fallen many times in the past six years (tripping last year in the middle of Paris!) but haven’t broken or seriously hurt any body part. I always have recovered very quickly and I credit that to weight training for 20 years, also because I have some extra padding. But two years ago I slipped on ice and hit my head. That was a bad one requiring ten stitches. And a mild concussion takes a long time to recover from.
    All this discussion about falls has made me decide to take more proactive steps. Thanks!

  30. Jeff N

    I slipped & fell on the Chicago ice around my house twice in a 24 hour period. The second time my knee really hurt, but it is better today. Everybody please be careful during winter!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Best of luck with your recovery! Ice and heat alternating after the first 24 hours, plus consider a knee brace when you go out of the house to lower the stress level while you are healing.

  31. The Rev Kev

    “‘If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
    Mae West

  32. David

    Training/behavioral alternatives discussed above include stretching, balance work, shoes, etc. You might also consider practice in falling itself. It’s possible to learn to do it safely, so that if you do lose your balance, you can land more smoothly. Aikido will teach you; I have students who started at 60.

  33. Gregg Barak

    As I write this comment I am in a recliner and in a recovery and rehabilitation facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Two weeks ago today, I slipped on the ice, the next day, February 5th, I had a revision of my first Total Hip Replacement (right side) from 2003 by the protege of the surgeon who had also performed my second THR (left side) in 2010. I could write a book about this experience as I have written many books, including my two award winning books, Theft of a Nation: Wall Street Looting and Federal Regulatory Colluding (2012) and Unchecked Corporate Power: Why the Crimes of Muktinational Corporations are Routined Away and What We Can Do About (2017).

    Very briefly, my prosthetic of 15 mm was replaced with a prosthetic of 26 mm; my 3 inch incision is now more than a foot. As I had fractured/shattered my femur into six pieces, I now also have a cable system wrapped around the new prosthetic from above the knee and below my pelvis, with nuts and bolts at both ends holding things together as bone and titanium mend and blend together—all internal of course and no need to go in again unless I fall again.

    Last year with 2 THPs I was in the Rain Forest and on the Amazon River as I was doing a Full Bright in Brazil. On February 4th, the day that I had fallen, I had already walked 2.5 miles with my two dogs and had shoveled snow and used the snow blower as I live on one of the two corner lots at Page Court and Page Avenue. One would not have known that I had ever had two THRs. I turn 70 this June 29, and hope that I am once agin walking 2 to 3 Miles a day, probably with only one dog at a time.

    As I am just beginning my rehab I am looking forward to the down time and to coming back with my identity, function, and control more or less the same.

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