A lesson about growing old

A story about back fracture and learning that I am getting old

Around 5pm on Saturday of 19th Jan I fell from the stairs while on the way to coldstore to buy groceries. I hit my back first on one of the steps and then went sliding down the next 6-7 stairs.

I didn’t feel any pain or something wrong for the first couple of hours except a tiny bit of pain. But after couple of hours passed, the real pain kicked in right exactly where one has their kidneys, making it impossible for me to move without immense pain. Long story short, the doctor after an X-Ray and a CT scan concluded I had a fracture in the backbone (vertebrate), and advised complete bed rest for a minimum of two weeks, and no fast/abrupt or heavy lofting for the next couple of months.

Having never had such an injury before, it seems like the reason for such an injury is that the old age is kicking in. As melancholy Jacques famously said in Shakespeare’s “As you like it”:

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans everything

Now having two weeks of doing nothing I started thinking about growing old. Surely as you age one has weaker bones, weaker immune system, weaker mind etc. But is there a way to slow that process or is it all natural. Surely, you cant slow down the aging process (death and taxes are certain)  but can we bring it to a more natural pace rather than an accelerated process.

Some communities in Greece or Japan live till the age of 90 years. Jokingly it is said that “it seems like those people forget to die”. Maybe looking their lifestyles can help me understand natural process of aging and bring it to a more natural pace.

I started studying what the secret is and read couple of books like Ikigai and Why we sleep? So far I have across the following observations through these books:

  1. These communities have more active lifestyles
  2. They have more sense of social connectivity within the community and within families. Gathering around fires in the evening.
  3. They help each other within the community to survive
  4. They laugh and enjoy simple things
  5. They sleep on time with normal sleep cycles and enjoy proper 7-9 hours of sleep
  6. They take naps in the afternoon
  7. They are closer to nature
  8. Less stressed life and work

Look at the above things and compare to how we live our modern or urban lives:

  1. Social connections are replaced by TV or phones or Netflixes during evenings
  2. Activity through manual labour in the past has been replaced by 10 hours of desk work
  3. No sense or community as everybody goes around their business without caring about community. Many people don’t even know who their neighbors are?
  4. We read and watch meaningless jokes on Whatsapps now instead of evening gatherings or visiting friends
  5. Instead of sleep we now chose using phones late in the night. Note that it usually takes a human to be in the dark and without artificial light for an hour for sleep pressure to kick in.
  6. No more naps in the afternoon
  7. No more nature around us
  8. Stressed work and life

Above is true for anyone living modern lifestyles and more true for expatriates who grew up in their home countries and now living as expatriates in different countries with environment or lifestyles that is foreign to them.

So I thought about whether urban or modern lifestyle is the reason which caused my injurey? Probably yes!

So what one can do? Wisdom or knowledge without action is laying bunch of paper filled with wisdom on the back of a donkey. So its time for change and action who live a more modern or urban lifestyle. Below is my plan for 2019 stating Feb (Jan was a shit-show) to get better health and avoid the side effects of the modern lifestyle. Hope this helps me and you who is reading this:

  1. Get proper 8 hours of proper deep sleep everyday
  2. Start some form of activity, that being running or gym (Good time to make use of my company stipend for gym)
  3. Spend more time with family and reconnect with old friends
  4. Take mini vacations more to be in touch with nature. This doesn’t necessarily have to be about leaving town.
  5. Quit any bad habits (mine being smoking)
  6. Take a hobby that is separate from work and takes one away from screens
  7. No screens in the evening including artificial lights at home
  8. Try to get rid of TV from home. This could prove very difficult :)

I can do most except the exercise part as doc recommended no physical exercises for the next couple of months. I will post more about the progress, learnings and challenges in the coming posts.