Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Living Life Fully in Old Age as a Genealogist

Today it has been one year since I broke my arm. While it took only four months to heal, the impact of the fall has lasted much longer. It was a very long process, from extreme pain and unable to fend for myself, to the ability to once again use my arm freely. A challenging part of recovery was I had to type one-handed with my left hand, as I am right handed. Seven years earlier, in 2004, I injured the same arm in a car accident and went through rotator cuff surgery. The blessing with the surgery is that I had a morphine drip for the first few days, followed with some other major painkillers. As fate would have it I do not respond well to the stronger painkillers and can only tolerate them for a short time.

After five surgeries in five years, the last one in 2009, I am not anxious to have any more. So, when I fell last year it was very surreal. Like watching a slow motion picture as I free fell onto my side on a concrete floor. My arm hurt so badly I did not even think about my hip, leg, neck and head. I did not want to go for medical help, as there was a genealogy class that I wanted to attend, but the pain was just too intense. Sitting in the waiting room in urgent care I waited for what seemed like an eternity. After the x-ray it was clear that this would be a long-term recovery, being confined to a sling and more down time from my hectic lifestyle.

Those of us who are moving into the senior years want to live our lives fully.  My children tell me that being over 55 is not old, but they will not understand the toll age takes on our bodies until they reach this season of their lives. No matter how physically fit or how healthy our bodies are, we all enter a phase that means coming to appreciate our aging capabilities.  We suddenly realize that we no longer have the same mental capabilities or the stamina to keep up with others. Some type of illness, accidental injury or long term disease often brings about these situations.

 There are lots of things that we can still do, just on a slower agenda. Recently I read the comic strip "Freshly Squeezed," where there was discussion of Grandpa and Grandma going to school. The mother explains that they are doing Lifelong Learning classes and that lots of older people are going to them. The grandson can't understand why they would choose to attend classes when they could be doing anything they want. He asks if this is one of the first signs of senility. Our children and grandchildren might be wondering the same thing about us.

Doing genealogy work is an amazing outlet for those of us who have to slow down the pace of our lives for whatever reason. Even for younger people there is a sense of serenity as we discover our ancestral roots. When our lifestyles change and we become limited in our activities, we need to incorporate new opportunities for growth. Directing the focus in our lives as we go through this process of change means utilizing our time to provide us with challenges and motivation for daily activities. Some days I do not feel like doing much at all, but then I look for an activity that will provide some sense of accomplishment. Even if it means reading a book or calling friends. Filling free time, especially for those who have retired usually is not a problem; we just have to find activities that motivate us. For me that means spending time on a variety of genealogy related activities or spending time with family and friends. Sometimes the two types of activities can be combined.

So, are you living your life fully as you age as a genealogist? For those young people are you living your life fully as a genealogist? By incorporating activities in our lives early on they may provide for us things we will enjoy later in life. I know my lifelong passion for family history is certainly a bonus as I pass through the medical challenges in my life. Geoff Rasmussen has a great quote, "Life is short, do genealogy first." I totally agree.

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