Saturday, December 11, 2010

Old People Are My People

Old folks have many interesting traits and behaviors, many of which I’ve had the opportunity to study closely over these past 14 months. As you know, I’ve been exposed to this population with an abnormal level of regularity, given my 29 years of age. When I was first in the CCU, I think I was literally the only patient under eighty. During my first visit to the cath lab, I determined I had more teeth than the rest of the patients combined. And at cardiac rehab, there were a few youngsters (in their fifties), but I brought down the average age quite a bit each time I showed up.

One of the most entertaining parts of rehab was observing the staff attempting to communicate with my fellow exercisers, as the fifty-plus crowd is not known for its keen hearing. On my first day, I met a very sweet man we’ll call Dave, who is probably about sixty-five. We became fast friends as we walked at tortoise-like speeds on the treadmill and moved slightly faster than molasses on the stationary bikes. He was my exercise buddy my first few days there, until the rigor of my work out mercifully surpassed his. [After all, age difference aside, I have a healthy new heart – he does not.] Anyway, we remained buddies but no longer followed the same circuit around the gym, so I kept an eye on him as I progressed through my work outs. At least once a day, one of the staff members would instruct him to check his heart monitor leads or ask him a question and receive a blank grin in response. Poor Dave, it turns out, can barely hear a thing. Watching this happen again and again got me wondering if he ever heard anything I said. Were we really buddies those first few days, or did he just wonder why the dumb blonde girl was moving her mouth so much?

Thankfully, I only came across the next example of unique geriatric behavior once. This old fart – quite literally – was blatantly passing gas during his entire work out. And guess who kept finding herself at equipment adjacent to him…ME. When he walked on the treadmill, I was directly behind him. When I was on the air bike (you know, the one that has a fan that blows air while you pedal?), he all but planted himself right in front of me so the fan was blowing his gas into my face as I gasped for air. Gross.

The most enviable thing about old people is their total lack of insecurity. They know who they are, and for the most part don’t care what anyone else thinks – about their clothes, about their opinions…or about their Zumba skills. Several weeks ago I attended a diabetes seminar at the hospital, the theme of which was the importance of exercise for diabetics. Not surprisingly, I was one of two people under 60 in attendance (most were well over 70 and quite overweight). Before the speaker took the stage, the audience was treated to two brief yoga lessons, in which the instructors appropriately tailored their exercises for the geriatric crowd. To really drive home the message that exercise can be fun, a spunky probably-twenty-one-year-old Zumba instructor bounced onto the stage next and insisted that the crowd participate. If you aren’t familiar with Zumba, it is basically a combination of Latin dancing (think lots of hips) and hip hop moves (think lots of booty shaking). Now, bring yourself back to the 70+ audience. It was one of the most entertaining and ridiculous things I have seen in a long time – I spent the entire fifteen minutes wishing as hard as I could that someone could be there to witness it with me and cursing my antiquated phone, which lacks video capability. There was not one audience member whose movements resembled those of the instructor, even a little bit. But they didn’t care, for their inhibitions disappeared decades ago.

1 comment:

  1. Hahahahaha. Classic. I'm getting you a video phone. This stuff is too good.