For the first two decades of life our bodies are supple. Ever notice how a toddler sleeps in the car? His neck is crooked to one side, but he wakes up perfectly fine — no kinks, no aches, no pains.
You can sit like a pretzel without consequences when you are young. I remember sitting for hours, curled up on the living room sofa, reading book after book. The knees worked – no creaks, no cracks, no pops.
In one’s late teens and into the 20s, you can eat just about anything and get away with it. Ice cream can be consumed almost every day, in moderation of course. Midafternoon candy bar snack at work? Not a problem. Icy cold Coca Cola on a hot day is definitely “the real thing.”
The changes are there but they are subtle. Those extra five pounds you want to lose? Select the latest diet fad and in no time, you can get into your favorite jeans. You are still active and flexible and can chase after your little kids. The occasional aches and pains can be relieved with a good massage or a hot shower.
Now is the beginning of the end but no one tells you that. The metabolism slows down. That extra piece of cake doesn’t burn off as quick as it used to. Four chocolate chip cookies can no longer be a “portion.” Professional and personal stressors contribute to weight gain as well. Those extra five pounds become ten. Your joints aren’t as maneuverable as before. Sometimes your back aches or there’s a crick in your neck. It’s time to buy a heating pad, just in case.
Welcome to the world of sandwich generation, with teenager kids and elderly parents. Stress eating sticks to the ribs and everywhere else –thighs, stomach, hips. Occasionally there’s a pop or crack in the knee. Sitting cross-legged is getting harder. The once-flat stomach is no more. Middle-age spread is either here to stay or a whole lot harder to get rid of.
This is the decade of many changes. Your face droops – the jawline is no longer tight, there’s a pouch at the bottom of your neck, “laugh” lines become more pronounced. The chest sags; hips widen; feet flatten; knees ache. Some body parts are wiggly and jiggly. Others “freeze up,” such as shoulders. That snap, crackle, pop is not coming from your cereal. Knee replacement surgery is a topic around the water cooler.
Don’t think about sitting on the floor. Getting up is a “process.” The body still has aches and pains after a good night’s sleep. Joints now require medical intervention. Physical therapy is a given. You don’t have the stamina you once had for physical activity, such as gardening and babysitting.
Is there an upside to aging? Of course. There’s the sweetness of grandchildren, that monthly Social Security check and retirement, to name a few. What will the 70s, 80s and 90s bring? I can’t wait to find out.