That is the name of our workbook, but there is more. There are two subtitle: “Managing Concerns about Falls” and “Volunteer Lay Leader Model.” It is meant to assure us that we are going to age healthy, even if we are common lay people who fall and break bones, and not professionals, who fall for money.

This is week three of the “Course” (we missed week two but made it up by watching a video) and we actually did some exercises this time. Fred and Sue were again our “instructors” and took us through chapter three of our workbook. We are “getting fit for life” so that we can improve our strength, have more energy to do things, delay some diseases, reduce depression and, of course, increase our balance. But first we must watch a video, whose propaganda is designed to get us ready for the “exercises.”

The video commentator is a woman, probably about 70, just old enough to talk to seniors, but young enough to shop and climb stairs, mildly but not overly enthusiastic, not white-haired or frail looking and, above all, able to read the teleprompter. I can’t remember a thing that she said, but I know it must have been important because it was about aging and that is why 15 of us are here. We are here to take this course because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the National Institute on Aging, realizes that a lot of Americans are aging and want to do something about it. It is our government working for us and we can surely make America great again by slowing down our aging.

Lesson three tells us four ways to be active, which I’ll shorten considerably, but are: 1) breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth—few other options are available; 2) use your muscles—not using them will mean that you are not exercising your muscles; 3) stand on one foot to improve your balance—two feet is cheating and anyone can do that; 4) stretch a lot—it will keep others in the room from sitting too close to you.

But some people aren’t convinced that exercise is good for them, even if the government says that it is. They need to talk to their doctor, unless he is overweight like ours is. He will tell them that exercise will cure dizziness, blood clots, muscle aches, joint swellings, surgery shortcomings, infections, or even a hernia. But he probably will recommend that we start slowly, using safety nets and harnesses, drink energy drinks and Coca Cola, and always bend forward from the hips, not the waist. We are told that if our back “humps”, that is bad news.

There is a lot of information available to find elsewhere if we aren’t convinced by our instructors or booklet: The American College for Sports Medicine will help those who try to bowl or throw darts at the local pub; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will tell us how to control and prevent disease; the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition will inform us that we can make America great again by doing ankle rolls and Achilles stretches; and for those who can still see small print the National Library of Medicine has volume upon volume of materials on kidneys, goiters and brain diseases. We can also visit www.nihseniorhealth, which is a “senior-friendly website,” not at all like the unfriendly democrat sites.

About thirty minutes into the program we start our exercises. Fred and Sue show us how to do the following:

  1. Deep breathing, which contrasts with shallow breathing, and is more like those who suffer with asthma;
  2. The “Good Morning Stretch,” but can be done later in the day as well. It is best to stretch to the left, then the right and to move slowly and, of course, breathe deeply; and remember to count to five.
  3. The “Shoulder Roll,” which if done too violently results in the sudden release of the shoulder joint;
  4. The “Diagonal Arm Press Across the Body,” which takes considerable pressing if the body is big. We do this in stages: Later, when we are in better shape, will come the “Diagonal Arm Press Across the Body and Toward the Floor.” It requires considerable effort to maintain at least 45 degrees above the floor. Still later will come the “Diagonal Arm Press Across the Body and Slightly Overhead.” It is the culmination—the super diagonal press—and even Sue has trouble with it.
  5. The “Foot Circles,” sitting down and one at a time is best, so that the shoes don’t come off. Fred has trouble with these because he once fractured his ankle in 12 places, so Sue shows us how to make our foot go in a circle. For those really coordinated, it is to be done clock wise and counter clock wise. Sue says she always gets those backwards.

There were a lot of additional exercises, but I won’t describe them now. Instead, try to imagine what the finger stretching, wrist flopping, elbow stretching, knee bending, leg extending, toe stands would be. If you can, you are well on your way to becoming a certified age instructor.

We then had a roundtable discussion on “the fear of falling” and almost everyone was able to contribute, including Fred, who says it is alright to keep a hand on the chair when doing the marching exercises. He can’t do them very well because of his arthritis. Our final exercise was the “Arm Chair Push” so that we could get up from our chairs to do the “Giant Bear Hug Stretch,” like kids do in the Highlands of PNG when they are cold. They hug themselves and we were allowed to do that too.

Next week we get into the heavy stuff on “Falls and Fractures.” That sounds like real fun.

The Providence Hospice Center
Waco, May 17, 2017