Many of us of a certain age have had that arresting and unsettling experience of catching an unexpected glimpse of ourselves in a mirror and thinking, “Oh, my word! Who is that old person?!”  We are invariably stunned when we realize, “C’est moi!”
  This must be a universal experience for human beings since someone figured out who that image in the still water really was.  But my generation, the huge, aging bump in the demographic snake known as the Baby Boomers, is fighting back. Apparently, many of us intend to keep going just like we always have despite all evidence to the contrary.
 {mosimage} I need to come clean on this. I have attended every yoga class I could for a decade.  Nowadays, three mornings a week, on a good week, I also go to the gym at 6 a.m. and beat it out on a treadmill and then do all manner of ab crunches and weightlifting exercises, hoping to have Michelle Obama arms even before I ever saw hers. All of this is presided over by a couple of hard body retired military physical fitness trainers who have a vague yet kind tolerance for civilian softies, known to enjoy a glass of wine, a good meal, and napping in a cozy recliner.
  In the bicycle room next door, we can hear the instructor yelling above thumping recorded music, exhorting her class of sleepy spinners to go faster, faster, faster.
It seems that we Baby Boomers do not plan to age, much less depart this world.
  The New York Times, our national observer of popular culture, is all over this one. In an article last month, Michael Winerip chronicles boomers who are enthusiastically opting for replacement parts — knees, hips, shoulders — in lieu of the ones they have worn out. They seem to feel this is the normal course, not all that different from replacing tread-bare tires or repairing a leaky roof.
  Just another bump in the road on the path of life.
  Winerip’s article is fascinating to this baby boomer. He recounts several of my generation who watched their parents live what we might think of as couch potato lives and die in their 60s and 70s. These boomers came of age exercising and are bound and determined to keep it up as if they were still playing high school football or jumping up and down on the sidelines. As evidence, Winerip cites the rise of knee and hip replacements among the 45-64 age group, surgeries that were once postponed until the joint sufferer could stand it no longer. What’s more, some of us boomers are undergoing multiple surgeries to keep us, literally, in the game. Winerip describes this recent phenomenon as “pushing the frontiers of orthopedic medicine,” and he provides this example.
  “Dr. Stephen J. O’Brien, an orthopedic surgeon, had his patient, Jay MacDonald, 52, lie on the examining table and bend his right knee back toward his chest to test for flexibility …  After replacement surgery on one knee, arthroscopic surgery for torn A.C.L.’s in both knees (skiing, running, tennis), rotator cuff surgery … (surfing, golfing, snow boarding) and an assortment of minor catastrophes (‘the last was a freak — I popped a tendon — doing curls in the gym’), Mr. MacDonald, like a lot of other men his age, has become one of the world’s leading experts on why he keeps breaking down and how he puts himself back together.
  “A few years ago, when his right shoulder went (snow boarding in Vail), he begged Dr. O’Brien to operate. The doctor resisted, telling his patient his injury was so severe that the risk of failure was high.
  “I said, ‘You have to,’” Mr. MacDonald recalled. ‘I want my life back. I want to surf — I’ve been surfing since I was 8. I do big waves — 16 footers. I can’t stop just because of a rotator cuff.’”
  I have tried, completely without success, to imagine my father or any of his friends saying that, although I can imagine several friends of my own generation uttering similar words. Mine is apparently the first generation to widely adopt the concept of exercise as a route to good health and longevity, and science confirms that, generally speaking, we are correct. Exercise does lead to better health and increased happiness for many people, and we are all getting ready to find out about the longevity part.
  The Times article, nevertheless, did make me wonder about too much of a good thing. I know, and you probably do as well, that while I am making a concerted effort to exercise and eat correctly, even though I do fall off the good health wagon with regularity, nothing works as well as it did when I was 15, 20, 30, or even 40. Like me, you may also question whether any amount of surgery can bring us back to where we were in the bloom of our youth.
  I wish Mr. MacDonald and others all the best in their quests for eternal flexibility. As for me, I am just delighted to be here at all.

  Contact Margaret Dickson at editor@upandcomingweekly.com

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