Personal Stories and Insights
By Carol Kutik, Director of Fitness and Health Promotion at Lakeshore Foundation
This column often covers articles that include fitness essentials, techniques and adaptations – the “how to’s” of physical activity. When the editor of NCHPAD News asked me to write an article about women with a disability aging gracefully, many women came to mind. I was excited at the opportunity to talk with them about their own journeys, as well as spend some time thinking about my own. Instead of pulling from textbooks and journals, this piece was derived straight from the personal stories and experience of women I know who are aging gracefully. I’ll get to the importance of activity at the end.
Karin Korb is a two-time Paralympian and a 10-time member of the USA World Team.
"Let's just start with, that I have loads of advice, however it's up to each person to carve out their own process of life. The priority for me is to not have limiting thoughts about age. We are societally sold - ageism. I'm not into that. You are as old as you feel or you believe."
"I don't think that what I'm about to say is specifically for women who happen to have a disability, or even women......this is simple advice for human beings: Be hygienic; with your outsides and more importantly with your insides.....which includes and most importantly your Spiritual hygiene. Focus on the expansion of your Spirit and all the rest falls into place; I promise. Don't get me wrong, I do own a few "creams" for my face and that may be of importance for the outside, but if you follow a prescription of hygiene in mind, body and Spirit, you will glow all the rest of your physical days....and beyond."
After scouring over several articles, blogs, and posts on social media, I began to jot down words and phrases. Some of my favorites are:
"Aging tenderly, aging authentically, aging passionately and enthusiastically, defiantly, treasuring every minute, accepting changes, comfort in choices made, a story for every wrinkle, being myself, knowing myself, kick old age’s butt, and wondering if men think about it too."
There were so many I had to stop! I didn’t see much about hair color, pants size or possessions.
Ann Wade is a retired physician of OB/GYN and member at Lakeshore Foundation.
"I will be a 60-year-old woman on my next birthday, yet I have felt much older than that when I was 'younger.' I am partially paralyzed in my legs and have balance issues from an incomplete spinal cord injury at 16 years of age. I spent the 20 years after the SCI trying to hide my disability by walking fast to keep up, wearing fashionable non-supportive shoes, choosing a physically demanding specialty, and not considering my limitations when my body was screaming to stop."
"Now I approach my life differently and am much more at peace with who I am. I wish I could say I meditate and do yoga and eat only raw vegetables, but maybe I'll get to that in my eighties. For now the things that suit me best are eight to 10 hours of sleep and daily physical exercise that includes intentional hydration, not listening to my fears about trying new exercise modalities, pushing myself beyond my limits and sweating profusely (I grew up when and where the southern belle set the standard.) I eat only when I am hungry and take smaller portions."
"Five months ago I could say I had not ridden a bicycle in 30 years because of fear of losing my balance and falling. Then I tried a recumbent three-wheel bicycle at Lakeshore and found the exhilaration of the wind blowing on my skin and through my hair, and moving fast under my own power was intoxicating. I am now awaiting my own recumbent trike with an electric assist."
"Before my SCI I loved water skiing, but once I 'recovered' my lack of balance would not allow me to ski like I did before. With the help and encouragement of Joe Ray at Adaptive Aquatics I learned to sit ski, and over the next several years I exercised harder, got stronger and lost a few pounds. Now when I sit ski I find myself pushing my limits. Sure I fall more often but I also go farther out on the wake, I go faster from one extreme of the wake to the other and even catch some air while doing it! Like I said, I fall more but I feel so much more alive pushing those boundaries."
"So far, my journey with aging is my journey with an imperfect body, full of arthritis. My cardinal rule is 'keep moving.' Keep looking for activities that excite you along with a like-minded group of adventurous folks. And by all means, have fun!"