Julia Hubbel

Musings on retirement age, retirement and why that may be a very bad idea.

Well, okay. It depends

Yesterday evening, just as I finished snugging the bungee cord that tightened the blue tarp over my brand new pile of wood, it started raining.

Timing. Three thousand two hundred pounds of split green fir, ready to dry for winter up here in Oregon.

Yesterday morning I welcomed the Lane County Forest products truck as he backed in and dumped my wood, about a cord plus, into my driveway, above. The driver got out, and commented on what a pity it was I didn't have anyone to load the wood for me.

I laughed out loud. Oh please.

I love this kind of work. I have a fractured finger (left hand down) a fractured toe (right foot down). I couldn't wait to get started. A wheelbarrow was out of the question. The pressure it put on my pinky toe was excruciating.

So, pack and load. From 8 am until nearly 4 pm, two food and water breaks. I schlepped that wood uphill, bruising my left arm and my legs in the process.  At least the whole pile didn't fall on me, which is more my luck.

By just before 4, I had the piles organized neatly, just uphill from my house. I probably had hiked the equivalent of a small mountain, carrying all that wood.

Just enough time to sprint to Lowe's, get a tarp and bungee that bad boy down.

Then I limped inside, showered off all that dirt and dust, then slept the sleep of the righteously tired, my windows wide open to let in that sweet, cool air.

No ash. Small miracles.

Hire someone? Not on your fucking life.

I'm not too old for this shit.

I just bought a climbing rope and a harness so that I can hook into the big metal loop on my ridge. The roof is very steep, and it gets a lot of debris from the trees. Clean it or you have to replace it.

I'm going to clean it, once I get the system in place. I consider that an adventure. So will my neighbors, who will probably open up parimutuel betting to see when I'm going to take a header off my roof and hang myself.

Lotta folks my age are just retiring, and anticipating days of nothing ahead.

Look, I can't speak for you or anyone else, but that looks like an early death sentence. Science bears me out on this:

Think Retirement Is Smooth Sailing? A Look at Its Potential Effects on the Brain
Emerging research suggests that retirement could lead to a decline in your cognitive function, says gerontologist Ross Andel. Anyone who’s retired or thinking about retirement should read this to learn more.

From the article:

...Some studies have linked retirement to poorer health and a decline in cognitive functioning — at times resulting in as much as double the rate of cognitive aging. This leaves people at a greater risk of developing various types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Look, I'm not addressing those for whom life threw such an awful curve that they are forced to work a job they hate (or five) to survive. Nor those for whom bad luck or poor choices or a confluence of terrible events have left them completely disabled. This isn’t an article specifically about how damned impossible it is to be a person of color in America and have a shot at a decent life, much less any kind of retirement, much less a healthy retirement. I get that. Please kindly do NOT gaslight me with those individual stories or claims that I’m not aware.I get that. I don't question their veracity. This piece is not about that.

I am however pointing out that when you and I have choices, and not everyone does to be fair, you and I are going to be far more likely to be lively and engaged if we step lively a lot more often.

If however, you're too old for this shit, well.

Photo by Nick Cooper / Unsplash

You've effectively already started to die.

Because the brain, along with the heart and mind, responds to intentions. Every single day when I wake up at 3 am, I am out of bed faster than you can say HOLY SHIT IT'S WAY EARLY. I am not quite at the point where I can do pushups and pullups but I'm getting there. I do PT daily to regain use of my hand, and I am impatient with my pissed-off pinky toe. I wanna go run rocky trails before winter rains make them mug slogs.

My house is under construction. This week and last, wood floors. Next week, set up the office. Hang paintings. Set up gear room. Set up workout area. It's never ending. I forgot- after so many years- just how complex a major move really is. And FUN, because this time I get to do it right. I've got just enough funds to get nice (used) things, and enough smarts to cull even more as I go through all my gear.

Too old for this shit? What shit?

My basement- part of it anyway Julia Hubbel

This year I moved some 4200 cu.ft. of my boxes, largely by myself, including most of my furniture, four times. FOUR TIMES. The last time I had one hand down.

Too old for this shit?

When I am too old or decrepit to move my own furniture, haul my own boxes and stack my own wood,  my ass will be ashes, if you will.

I come from a farming family. I noticed that after my dad quit farming work, he lost strength damned near overnight. In just a few years of doing little to no work to maintain his considerable natural strength, I found him sobbing next to his big Dodge fifth-wheeler, trying to change a tire.

He looked my concerned face and choked out, "I can't do this any more."

I was eighteen. I never, ever forgot that lesson.

Dad had a choice. He chose to learn to bake bread and eat candy. To sit for hours working on hobbies. He didn't walk, didn't work out. His belly grew, his arms turned to sticks. He resented what time had done to him but he refused to do anything about it.

I'm too old for that, he would say. Too old to learn a computer. Too old to...live, I guess.

Our bodies- YOUR body- are designed for steady work for an entire long lifetime.

Photo by Chander R / Unsplash

When we fuel our bodies for life, we are unstoppable. As I have written, and am applying to myself right now, that fueling process is bound to change as we age. Our bodies morph over time, and what we can eat as well as how much is not laid in stone.

Meet that challenge with denial and avoidance you end up like my dad: pissed off at how his body let him down, rather than rise to the constant challenge of self-care.

We let our bodies down, not the other way around.

Here's a perfectly timed piece for those of you barking at the big Five-Oh and wondering if it's all downhill from here:

Here’s How to Get Stronger After 50
You don’t have to lift less as you get older—you just have to make a few adjustments to your training.

From the article:

Your training needs don’t change as you get older. You still want to build cardiovascular capacity, strength, and functional mobility. But the way you approach those goals needs to be tailored to the individual, depending on your current fitness level, injury state, and other lifestyle factors.

Every bit of research on the aging body, and there is plenty of it, says that when you and I continue to move, when we eat well for OUR bodies at OUR time of life based on OUR activity levels and energy needs, surround ourselves with like-minded positive folks in our community and above all, have a really good reason for living, we thrive.

What does this look like in practice? Well. I've been to 47 countries. Many of them are developing nations. Folks who are in their nineties in Vietnam are still tilling the rice fields.

That's what keeps them alive, happy, healthy. The rice doesn't plant itself, the younger folks need to learn how to plant and harvest, and the work keeps grams, both of them, hearty, happy and healthy.

Some time back I read where one Medium nitwit (and I am unforgiving when it comes to ageism on this platform so I do NOT apologize for this bullshit) wrote about people where he was traveling that folks in their seventies were out with their carts selling food...when they SHOULD be at home.

Sharp intake of breath.

Photo by zhang kaiyv / Unsplash

That those folks in their seventies were out selling their wares, engaged in the community, being active were precisely what gave them pleasure and purpose. Stick them at home, inside, and what,

wait to fucking die?

Convenience is killing us softly.

I'm too old for THAT shit. I will stack my own wood, move my own furniture, schlep my own boxes, cut my own tree limbs, haul my own yard trash from the storms.

Finally, from a fellow writer on aging:

Two Things A Lifetime Of Research On Aging And The Brain Said We Should Do Now
After a lifetime studying the how aging and the brain interact, Dr Mark P Mattson recently retired from the National Institute on Aging. Dr Mattson is a renown expert in understanding neurobiological…

From his article:

There are two interventions which have risen to the top over the last 20 years of research, as summarised in a 2018 report by Dr Mattson.

His conclusion, after a lifetime of study?

- Exercise and diet are critical determinants of healthy brain aging.

Well, stop the presses.

Two of the simplest, most directly accessible things you and I can do something about right here, right now. That is, and this is a nod to the reality of being an older person of color in America, assuming you have access to decent food, can afford it and kindly, don't get shot for Running While Black.

If you're too old for this shit, you are likely dying fast, like my father. It's never about just longevity. It is always and forever about quality of life, aging vibrantly.