The age fairy whopped me on the side of the head

Great-grandma! Aside from the PMS look, isn’t she a beauty? I bet she used her hands to get around!

Every birthday you say “I don’t feel any different than I did when I was 30, 40, 50 (you fill in the age)?” I know what makes you feel old – a fall or a stupid accident. You can fall when you are young but it’s more memorable when you’re old. You feel like a blithering idiot especially when it’s dry, sunny, no change in flooring, no logical reason, etc.

This past week I fell. (No, I didn’t hurt anything but my pride.) One moment I was upright and the next I was crumpled in an awkward position on the floor. I don’t exactly know how I did it, but I felt old and vulnerable. I don’t like that feeling.

I sat on the floor for five minutes and had a good cry. I wasn’t hurt but the age fairy gave me a reminder of things to come and I didn’t like it.

All my life I’ve had good joints. I still have the original parts. Nothing hurts when I walk and I don’t take that for granted. I have too many friends that set off metal detectors.

My mom was afraid of falling as she got older. I didn’t understand then, but I do now. There is something in that little balance area of your brain that takes naps at the most inopportune times. You can’t catch yourself like you would have 20, 30 years ago. You don’t look like a ballerina either. More like a fish pulled out of the water flopping on the floor.

Then starts the litany of the questions. Did I break a bone? How about my hip? My wrist? All those parts that send old people to nursing homes to mend (and would sabotage my daily Starbucks mocha).

It’s humiliating even if no one is there to see you. If someone is, you quickly (? This is a relative term) sprint upright, dust yourself off and utter something like “no big deal, I’m fine.” But are you? I said that when I fractured my kneecap many years ago only to find out that the leg doesn’t work when the kneecap is fractured. Another flopping fish demonstration.

In this case I sent two cats flying from the room. They had no intention of getting wedged under a clumsy person. They peered around the corner to remind me that they don’t have opposable thumbs to dial for help.

After I had my auto accident, I became fearful of driving. Not just my own driving but all those crazies out there who don’t realize how awful and painful (both financially and medically) an accident is. Falling is very similar. I’m not fearful of walking but I am feeling closer to my neanderthal ancestors than ever before. Maybe using your hands on the ground for balance wasn’t such a weird idea.

I’m signing off to lick my scrapes and bruises and to convince myself that it was a logical fall caused by something other than clumsiness. It wasn’t about age at all.  Old age is always 20 years older than me.

86 thoughts on “The age fairy whopped me on the side of the head

  1. I understand the point you make about it being humiliating. I don’t really know why that’s true, but it is. Somehow being vulnerable is humiliating, when we know that with time we all have age-related losses. My mother-in-law was. you’re than I am now when she made a declaration. “Old ladies fall!” and she said she was never again going to wear any shoes but Kids, and she picked up all the bathmats, occasional rugs and started being very careful. I didn’t get it then. I do now! I’m glad you’re okay. Sometimes we just need to lick our wounds before going on!

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  2. Glad you’re okay Kate. I worry about falling now since I had a Bone Density Test done last year and realized how much worse my bones are than 8 years ago. In some ways ignorance is bliss. I fell off the two steps into the garage about five years ago and still don’t know how that happened, it was so quick, but other than a twisted and swollen ankle I was fine. My mother at 96 has fallen a few times in the past year, and she was always so steady on her feet, but she has learned to do a soft fall and protect her head, so no harm done so far. I keep nagging her to have her walker near here at all times with the brakes on so she has something to grab onto.

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  3. Glad you are fine. Yep, I will have to make plans for falls I suppose one day. Maybe my husband and I will just use walkers for everything and race each other around the house with them. Maybe I won’t fall so much holding onto one. We’ve already decided once we hit a certain age, stairs are out of the question. We will just reside on the main floor somehow. I’d hate to lose my pets though.

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  4. Good news that you did not get injured when you fell. I have fallen a couple of times in the last five years but I am really bad about walking into things. I walk around at night in the dark and I have rammed my thigh into the glass table and stubbed some toes. I need to turn on a light! I understand your fear of driving. I haven’t had an accident and I don’t enjoy driving anymore. I think it has a lot to do with living in Florida… seriously, a lot of people driving here that are too old to drive and have no idea where they are going. I just don’t have the reflexes and awareness of things that are going on that I had just a few years ago, This was a good post, Kate. Makes me realize I need to be careful and aware. I can see the cats flying!

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    • I misjudge doorways and smack into them often but I’ve been doing that a long time so I can’t blame age. It usually happens when I’m in a hurry. I heard that about Florida drivers. I lived in NJ and drivers there are in a hurry to get nowhere!

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  5. So glad you are physically okay. That age fairy is definitely not on my speed dial. I fell while walking back to my car after stopping to watch some ducks at a nearby lake. Like you, I could not determine the reason I just felt myself falling forward and couldn’t stop it. The result was a scraped knee, a small tear in my new jeans and a very wounded pride. The ducks were the only ones to see it happen and I think I heard them laughing!

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    • Ducks are like that! Fortunately no clothing were wounded in this trip but I fell in Nashville many years ago. I was getting on a bus and something happened. Ripped my relatively new favorite pants. I was heartbroken. My knee was so sore it curtailed my sightseeing but it wasn’t broken.

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  6. Kate, I missed your column yesterday and am now catching up with all of the comments. Glad to hear you are okay! ❤ It sounds like everybody "our" age, and even younger, has taken a tumble or two. What has helped me with the fear, which is as debilitating as the fall itself: a "well baby" check up with the doc (I know you hate to hear that. Me, too!) A class in the fear of falling–I learned great techniques! Classes with a personal trainer (I got a cute young man at the gym, so it was a two-fer) to strengthen core and do all those weird side-steppy exercises you never do on your own. I keep my cell phone close. Knowing I've done what I can, I accept falling as an interesting new development in life. Best wishes, Kate. Keep that sense of humor!

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    • Some very good suggestions there. I didn’t know they had “fear of falling” classes! I did balance stuff when I went to the gym but the gym didn’t open after the pandemic. Annual checkup in two weeks and I’ve got a list for him!

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  7. We don’t bounce as well as we used to, that’s for sure.
    Glad you’re OK, except for the whomp upside the head by the age fairy.

    I had sustained vertigo this week ~> several days of holding on to things to maneuver across the room while feeling “seasick.” My equilibrium is back. All bones intact. And that’s a fact, Jack!

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    • I’ve never had vertigo but know several people who get it periodically. Definitely not fun. I’ve never been a big fan of boats because of seasickness so I wouldn’t want it on “land!”

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  8. I worry about walking in the neighborhood as there is often uneven pavement. You’d think since I take the same route every time I walk to the Park that I’d know where every raised sidewalk or pothole was. I have fallen twice on the cement, once running for the bus. That terrible feeling as you freefall and I had horrible bruises and road rash for a long time.

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    • The freefall is the worst. Seems like minutes but it’s seconds or even less. I like knowing why I fell. In this case I’m not sure. Did my legs get tangled up with the waste basket next to my desk? Or did they just get tangled up? A mystery of life!

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      • A friend of mine was a social worker and decided to get a masters degree in geriatric medicine. One of the first things drilled into their heads was the importance of “balance” for senior citizens because they lack balance skills, the older they get.

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          • I used to go to Elaine Powers, for women only, back in the 80s. No pool or spa services, but that was fine and it was inexpensive back then. I also used to take ballet for balance as an adult. The woman had a studio in the neighborhood and retired so I stopped doing ballet. When I fell in the snow last year (that was clumsy as there is a drop off and I forgot about it as it was snow covered), I wrote about the difficulty in getting back up on my feet. Granted I had the small camera in one hand and trying to get up and not get it wet. A fellow blogger in her mid-60s told me to do yoga. She said she could not get on the floor and then up without using a chair to grab onto, so this was a great way for her to be flexible again and good for balance. She wanted to be able to sit on the floor and play with the grandchildren. I am not flexible at all. I bought a yoga CD from Amazon, but ask me if I’ve watched it.

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  9. Glad you did not get hurt. My mom is 80 and when her cat passed away last year, she said no more cats because she is afraid of tripping on one and falling.

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    • I had a friend (she was in her 80s when her cat passed) who also didn’t get another cat for the same reason and the fear the something would happen and no one would take care of the cat. I assured her I would but it didn’t change her mind. I suspect the bending to feed and clean litter may have factored in too. I really feal sorry for her. She is now in her 90s without a pet and her family lives across the country. She was the one who would take in cats no one else would (a lot like your self!). We need people like that.

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  10. I slipped in the shower when I was alone in the house (possibly while dancing because I was finally alone in the house). Had lots of bruises, but nothing serious. Swore such a blue streak the dog wouldn’t come anywhere near me. As you say, more humiliating than anything else.

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  11. I should begin by saying I’m sorry I laughed so hard. I love your writing, and you can magnify any mishap into a side-splitter in a mili-second. That must be a world record.

    I was in the kitchen a few years ago, and suddenly I was on the tile floor looking at the ceiling. Never could figure out what happened.

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  12. Yikes, I’m glad you are okay. I am finding that I’m much more careful than I used to be. I don’t like feeling like a worried old lady but better that then ending up on the floor. Ever since I broke my hip falling off a ladder, I have been hyper aware of my feet relative to the floor… and I still trip now and then.

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  13. Glad you’re OK……I have a big fear of falling but fortunately haven’t ever had a fall – or at least not since I was learning to ride a bike as a kid. Our bones just don’t enjoy falls as we age (!) and I had a hip replacement last year which I’d rather NOT have to “re-do” so I’m just more careful. HOWEVER, I’ve always been a very clumsy type so no doubt falls are in my future. I hope it’s my distant future.

    Hugs, Pam

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  14. Glad you’re okay. I fell last week. I was walking backward, cutting weeds with a string trimmer, stepped on a small to medium sized downed branch, and down I went on my backside banging the back of my head a couple of times. That was a little sore for a day or so, but otherwise I just dragged myself back upright and decided maybe that was enough trimming for that day. I can appreciate ‘pensitivity101’ because getting back up is not as easy as it use to be either. 🙂

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  15. I’m sure glad you didn’t hurt yourself, but I do understand all those thoughts you shared here. I’ve had good bones, but not good joints. I’m suffering like crazy with chronic pain these days, and I’m a few years younger than you. Aging will only make it worse.
    I’m also glad you allowed yourself to cry to release that stressed energy from the fall . . . and that the cats got out of the way in time. Hugs. 🌹

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  16. Glad you weren’t hurt Kate.
    I remember when I fell over due to a shiny pebble in the pavement. I went flying, as did the doughnuts I was carrying straight into the road. I was so embarrassed when two burly lads came to my assistance and couldn’t help me up. It didn’t help that I was laughing so much, but we got me upright in the end. Nothing broken, but I still have a scar on the back of my hand as a reminder.
    I dread to think what would happen if I fell now. I can’t hoist myself up without the inelegance of flipping onto all fours, sticking my rear in the air and bringing my feet in the direction of my armpits.

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  17. Sorry to hear about your tumble. Happy to hear you weren’t hurt. I fell a few years ago at a shopping center. Had a ride in an ambulance and got 5 stitches above my eyebrow. The head bang and stitches were nothing compared to the embarrassment of the public fall.

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    • I fell at a garden center (that’s when I fractured my kneecap). I almost crawled to my car smiling and assuring everyone I was just fine. Then I sat there and tried to breathe. I drove to work and found I really couldn’t put any weight on that leg, therefore, I couldn’t walk. I crawled along the building to the front door until the security guard could help me. I should have gone to the hospital in an ambulance but that would have been so embarrassing. Not sure what is wrong with us.

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        • At that point, I was in such a sad state, that embarrassment went out the window. I needed to get into the building to get help. I didn’t end there. Someone drove me home (also dumb move). Two hours later I called my brother to take me to the emergency care place nearby. I should have done that to start with.

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  18. Sorry to read about your fall! The past couple of times I went hiking with my daughter I fell both times, which caused her to ask me (quite pointedly!) how often this happens. I told her truthfully “only when I’m with you” but I sensed she didn’t believe me. I think it’s because I am much more careful hiking with people my own age…looking out for myself as well as my partners, and pay less attention when hiking with younger folk. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!

    Deb

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    • When my doc asks how often I fall in a year I realize it’s not all that often although it’s been getting more frequent. I only fall when there is a good reason — trip up a step, trip down a step, lost an eyelash…you know…all the biggies!

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      • Falling with no apparent reason: that must be a shock, and bewildering. It has happened to several of my friends. No trip, no ankle twist, no dizziness or loss of balance. Just a sudden switch from perpendicular to horizontal. Constant vigilance is for Buddhist monks, not us mere mortals. A friend turned 80 this year and asked her doctor what she should be doing now. The doctor pondered, and came up with this: Avoid falls and keep up an active social life. The first easier said than done?

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  19. I’m sorry about your fall, and I empathize. Ever since I had my first bone density scan and discovered they aren’t what they used to be I’ve gotten much more cautious. I hold the railing on the stairs and don’t read my phone while I’m walking down them anymore, and just generally pay a lot more attention. This getting older thing is a challenge.

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    • I am very careful. I have osteoporosis and take meds for it but my numbers are borderline. My walking has done a lot to help strengthen my pelvic and thigh bones. We put grab bars in the shower and I’m generally cautious. I have no idea how this happened. I was getting out of my chair and something didn’t work right.

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      • We are looking at converting one of our shower/tub combos into a walk in shower with grab bars, etc, for the same reasons. Climbing over a tub gets scarier as we get older. I just have osteopenia so far, but time marches on.

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        • We had a shower at the old house but also converted the guest bath into a shower without the tub when we had to use it for a couple of weeks and almost killed ourselves! I started with osteopenia too but after my breast cancer I was on cancer med that stopped my estrogen. Nothing is harder on your bones than no estrogen! Still, I’ve had some success in reversing it so I’m not complaining. I just like the good old days when nothing was wrong.

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          • I like the good old days when I could do anything physically with no ill consequences. Getting older and having a body that won’t take that kind of abuse anymore is less than fun.

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