Closer to death? 45+ Growing old/identity crisis?

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ouinon
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30 Nov 2011, 5:06 pm

I recently turned 48.

I've been increasingly conscious of "ageing", of being, physically at least, on a downward curve. And of a need to adjust my "identity" or "social performance"/roleplay/interactions with people and activities, and have been increasingly reminded of the shift which occurred at puberty/adolescence, from asexual/gender-neutral "child" to "girl", and which was a huge crisis and challenge for me, requiring the learning ( observation, analysis and copying/mimicking ) of many new behaviours etc and which was both exhausting and engrossing, to exclusion of almost any other "study".

I'm not suggesting that I should have to change my personality or interests etc "simply" because I'm "closer to death"/growing older ... but that there is something nevertheless which I need to adapt/adjust about my expectations, reactions, etc ... like an old skin which must be shed if I'm not going to look, and feel, very silly even sadly pathetic, out of place, and depressingly WITHOUT a "role"/purpose...

I'm not saying that "being older" means having to behave differently, but that something about having declining physical health, fewer years left, less energy, and and and ( a son entering adolescence, a partner due to retire in 2 years, no job, grey hair, etc ) demands some sort of adaptation IF ONLY that of acceptance, that my body is gradually cracking up, that it will never again feel the same way as it did when I was 20, that most of my daydreams not only never came to pass but that they never will now ... that talking to shopkeepers as if I'm still a "girl" is rather absurd/bizarre ...

... that there really is something different about being nearly 50, rather than 20, that I'm having to demolish some of the cornerstones of my ( relatively ) successful strategies for performing "young woman/girl".

Is anyone else going through this? Does this ring bells for anyone else? How was this "passage" for you?

Currently I'm hating it. I just can't imagine BEING an old person; it's as alien to me as "being a girl" was when I was 10.
.



mv
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30 Nov 2011, 6:46 pm

ouinon wrote:
I recently turned 48.

I've been increasingly conscious of "ageing", of being, physically at least, on a downward curve. And of a need to adjust my "identity" or "social performance"/roleplay/interactions with people and activities, and have been increasingly reminded of the shift which occurred at puberty/adolescence, from asexual/gender-neutral "child" to "girl", and which was a huge crisis and challenge for me, requiring the learning ( observation, analysis and copying/mimicking ) of many new behaviours etc and which was both exhausting and engrossing, to exclusion of almost any other "study".

I'm not suggesting that I should have to change my personality or interests etc "simply" because I'm "closer to death"/growing older ... but that there is something nevertheless which I need to adapt/adjust about my expectations, reactions, etc ... like an old skin which must be shed if I'm not going to look, and feel, very silly even sadly pathetic, out of place, and depressingly WITHOUT a "role"/purpose...

I'm not saying that "being older" means having to behave differently, but that something about having declining physical health, fewer years left, less energy, and and and ( a son entering adolescence, a partner due to retire in 2 years, no job, grey hair, etc ) demands some sort of adaptation IF ONLY that of acceptance, that my body is gradually cracking up, that it will never again feel the same way as it did when I was 20, that most of my daydreams not only never came to pass but that they never will now ... that talking to shopkeepers as if I'm still a "girl" is rather absurd/bizarre ...

... that there really is something different about being nearly 50, rather than 20, that I'm having to demolish some of the cornerstones of my ( relatively ) successful strategies for performing "young woman/girl".

Is anyone else going through this? Does this ring bells for anyone else? How was this "passage" for you?

Currently I'm hating it. I just can't imagine BEING an old person; it's as alien to me as "being a girl" was when I was 10.
.


I'm going through this a bit, too. I'm 44, so not too far behind you, but my kids are younger (oldest is 8 ). For me, what you're describing has been a series of miniscule transitions. Things like being called "Ma'am" instead of "Miss", physical changes (body determined to go dumpy, no matter how much exercise and diet I throw at it, hair changing quality, face changing about every six weeks in some tiny way, more allergies, water retention, broken capillaries, etc.), being viewed as a mom exclusively instead of as a woman, you name it. I've been through a devastating divorce and I've been unpartnered for about 5 years now, too, so I've had to do more of an identity change than the one associated with aging. I've never physically feared death; I think I'm more worried about having a completely unsatisfying life and not knowing how to change that. The older we get, it looks like the more doors that close for us (unless we're rich, and I'm not).

What can I recommend? Take comfort where you can find it, but I warn that it will never again be those things that comforted or validated you when you were younger. This is highly individual for each person, of course. One thing that can be comforting is that people largely become invisible as they age, so learning new routines/gestures/mimicry isn't as crucial.

Health, depending on your definition, can be a matter of choice. Take the best care of your body that you can, even if it means other things/responsibilities have to fall by the wayside or take a back seat. You can't get your health back once it's gone. I'm lucky that I have great health: low blood pressure, low cholesterol, fairly good skin quality, never sick, no chronic conditions, minor allergies, regular menstrual cycle, etc.). Are you perimenopausal or menopausal? That can wreak havoc with your perceptions, for sure. Do you get routine physicals? I'm not a great fan of doctors, but they can catch stuff early and make recommendations for quality-of-life improvement. Do you work? Volunteer? Have some sort of outlet? It's crucial to keep one's mind active.

Other than these things, there's not much I can say. Growing old: it ain't for the weak. :wink:



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30 Nov 2011, 6:54 pm

My 45th b-day is in VERY CLOSE proximity.

Lately I've been.....GROUCHY.

My "extended family" (sisters & brothers) are the ones that I've realized I needed to cut out of my life (did a whole thread on that before). Yes, I've experienced "loss" in relationships before (hello, I have Aspergers...) but I've never had so many relationships come to a screamin' halt before and it is really sad. (Then again, thinking of how they were NON-relationships, anyways; I am better off). But one does mourn loss.

I've started thinking "45? Isn't that MIDDLE AGE?" and get a bit of a chuckle thinking of me as OLD. I know that I can be "set in my ways"...if that means that I have things I like & things I do not like. I have definite preferences in my shopping, eating, reading & watching TV shows...is there anything wrong with having something I like/enjoy? I don't think so.



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30 Nov 2011, 9:33 pm

I have also recently turned 48. I know I'm suppose to feel middle aged, and act the same but I just plain refuse to. All my friends are pretty much 10 yrs younger tham myself....Thats one way I get to feel at least wise. Alot of the "younger problems" have come and gone. I still look forward to the future. I find it a little funny that I'm in better shape than most of my friends, and I still kick butt in video games.

I do however hang out with smarter people than I did in the past. Virtually all my friends are in the catergory of teachers and professionals. Most of them have more gray hair than I do ! !

But I've also recently had my very first medical problem, its a nerve issue with my lower back, mainly arthritis causing the problems and yet still no pain or discomfort, just numbness.

I will always feel that a young attitude keeps you young, same with activities.

Yes I'm also single and currently not even looking, I would rather be sharing life with someone but I would rather be in no relationship than a bad one....theres been a couple of those. Theres also pretty much no family other than my mom and thats a bit of a distant relationship, and I'm ok with that (most of the time)

Also I'm going thru a career change, still not sure what to, but my back cant handle the abuse any longer...


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01 Dec 2011, 5:53 am

I recently turned fifty-nine, so you kids out there - enjoy life, there's plenty left. I'm deaf, losing my sight and insulin dependent as well as being autistic and old age is starting to bite. I have osteoporosis and break small bones a few times a year too.

The best thing in the long term outlook is that the diabetes will kill me before anything else reaches the unbearable point.



slipacre
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01 Dec 2011, 8:18 am

I am 63 and must acknowledge I am essentially still in great health. That makes a huge difference.
A little slower, heavier, aches and pains, taking meds for this and that, but feeling pretty good .

The thing I did not realize was the life would get better - each decade has been better than the one before
childhood and teens - sucked
20-s flailing about anger a dominant factor self medicating
30- self medicating became problematical and at 39 had to stop
40-s flailing about climbing out of the holes I had dug
50-s coming to an understanding - a truce if you will - no longer me against the world. things started to come together
60-s so far all the pieces are fitting finding joy



1000Knives
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01 Dec 2011, 11:07 am

I'm 20, so I'm like...not old. If you want advice from a 20 year old, here's my advice.

Do stuff. At the skating rink I go to, half the people in for public skate are like around 60 years old. They skate like everyday. Lots of women past 40 or 50 there actually take up figure skating. They don't become like, Olympians or anything, but a few women I know, starting in their 40s either after having done it as a teenager, or sometimes never at all until they started in their 40s, can do some jumps and stuff. It sorta keeps you young and in shape, and it seems to be pretty low impact if you make it that way, skating. I know a guy with a hip replacement who skates recreationally there. They're not in like, perfect Adonis health, but they're in good health imo compared to other old people I see. They're still able to keep up with most of the younger people in races and stuff. I know a guy who's at least 70, white hair and all, who skates awesome still, I mean he's not stupid fast, but he's not a crappy skater by any means, he goes at least 3 times a week or so.

Alot of times, I feel like people get old because of more lack of use of their bodies. You stop using your body, you get fatter and lose muscle mass, thus it makes it harder for you to use your body in the future. At around age 50 is when you lose the most muscle mass, thus you get weaker and break stuff. Basically, it's a cruel circle of getting fat because of lack of power in things you wanna do, then that causes you to lose muscle, etc. You gotta break the cycle, and the sooner you break it, the less work you gotta do later. My mom's been a huge example of this. Now she's with a physical therapist after a tendon surgery who actually cares, and she's done much better. She used to not even be able to stand on one foot for a second, now she can do 10 seconds, and it's only been like a month or so. But, if she kept her health really good, she could be like....figure skating or something now. But, for reasons, such as her having kids, working, not getting enough sleep, she lost track of her health. We as a society seem to have this idea, especially really "smart" people get this idea, that their body is just a container for their brain, and it's simply not true. Your body affects your mind in more ways than you can imagine.

But yeah, my main point is, it's never too late. It might take more determination on your part, perhaps more than you wanna give, but it's not too late to pursue goals, even physical ones. A big example that flys in the face of "conventional" wisdom, alot of the top powerlifters right now are like 50+ year old men. Like, they're beating records in the sport at over 50 years old. So yeah, not too late at all, just depends on your willpower I think, and to an extent your resources.



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01 Dec 2011, 1:31 pm

I'll be 63 in a few months. Not to sound condescending, but I can attest that at 48 you're still a youngster. That doesn't mean you can thumb your nose at the aging process, however. You do need to take more interest in your health and in your long-term finances, just to name two things, than you ever did before.

But I'll let you in on a secret ... being in your 60's is a hoot. People my age enjoy life and have just as much fun as we did in our 20's and 30's ... hell, a lot more fun in a lot of cases. Other positives: I don't have to work anymore if I don't feel like it. Some days I do, some days I don't. For that matter, I don't have to do any damn thing I don't want to do. I don't follow a schedule. I don't march to any drums but my own.

There are other things, as well. Personal relationships are more satisfying now. I don't take people for granted. I don't get all hot under the collar when people disagree with me or when I think their opinions are stupid. Trust me, getting upset at other people's beliefs wastes a lot of energy.

Dating is actually easier now, in my opinion. I'm seeing a wonderful woman who's a couple of years older than me. She jokingly calls herself my "cougar". She's fun, funny, sexy, and doesn't play silly games. Women in their 60's are an absolute delight.

And speaking of sex ... it's a standard joke in our society about older people and sex. But here's another little secret: we do it. We may not necessarily do it like bunnies anymore, but we probably enjoy it more. And it's more relaxed, more comfy. We can happily spend an entire afternoon in bed together. I'll take my 65-year-old lover any day over a younger woman.

I'm not sure all this is really addressing your issues, but I sympathize with your angst. I really do. But you've got a lot of living yet to do, if you want it.



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01 Dec 2011, 2:05 pm

I am about to turn 37 and I feel like a lot of what you said really hit home for me and what I have been going through recently.

When I made the transition from childhood to teenager my social identity changed. Then in my early twenties I changed from teenager mode to adult and that is pretty much where I have been since then.

But now as an almost 37 year old I find that lots of my social behaviors, the way I interact with people, the "role" that I sometimes have to play, how I think of myself in relation to others, my interests and opinions, really everything about who I am is coming into question.

The person who I morphed into in my early twenties was fine for a person in their twenties but doesn't feel "right" for a person in their late thirties. I cannot even really put it into words. I don't have the vocabulary to even relate the thoughts and feelings I am having.

Quote:
have been increasingly reminded of the shift which occurred at puberty/adolescence, from asexual/gender-neutral "child" to "girl", and which was a huge crisis and challenge for me


That totally hits the nail on the head and really puts my feelings into words far better than I could.



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01 Dec 2011, 2:33 pm

Todays my birthday. I just turned 48. I can tell you the alternative to getting old is a lot worse. I died at 29 so I enjoy every day that I have gotten to spend since then. Even the bad days.

I can understand about the health problems and other things. I was pretty energetic when I was younger, but now aches are happening in places that I didn't know I had. I used to love rollercoasters, but all the flinging about hurts now. All in all I guess my health is pretty good. I keep busy and I've been told I look a lot younger than I am. I'm sure that there are some changes I need to make, but George Burns lived a long time (100) and he smoked a cigar and drank every day!! :)

Enjoy your age. People are living a lot longer now. You never know when you're going to die. Tomorrow you could get hit by a bus. Who knows. Each day is a blessing!


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ouinon
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01 Dec 2011, 3:33 pm

Wow! What an amazing bunch of replies! Thank you so much for replying, it was brilliant to read your experiences, opinions, etc about it.

I was thinking that the "challenge" breaks down into two, perhaps three, main issues for me.

One of them, which is actually maybe two things, is the "purely" physical, ( though I totally totally agree with the person who said that "the physical" impacts profoundly on the mental, informs and shapes our emotional and intellectual activity and experience constantly ): There's the body-image aspect of it, which is so hard for me to "keep up with", the changes in body shape, hair colour and quantity and "sit", my skin condition and the ever increasing wrinkles, my facial features, teeth, carriage, ( how far I can turn my head, how fast my facial skin recovers from expressive "grimaces" which used to work, etc ) and the "manipulation" of my face, smile, body generally, the gestural etc, which I worked so hard on, only to realise now that the gestures ( mannerisms, movements, smiles, etc ) that I learned with so much effort are more appropriate to a young woman, one lacking authority, one who "pleases" ( desperately ), etc. Simply *realising* ( noticing/recognising/seeing ) that my body has changed/is in the process of changing so much that these things no longer look the same to others has been a shock. The speed at which they are happening too. And that they are not diminishing, will not stop, that they will in fact become more and more noticeable, and that there will be new ones. It's really weird.

I don't remember being shocked or worried or disturbed by the physical changes of puberty. I don't know if that's because I prefer not to remember them. I remember the psychological ones, the social changes, etc though, and I remember finding everything suddenly much more difficult and complicated, and feeling spaced out, and being increasingly clueless as I entered adolescence, and I wonder if it had something to do with my body changing so much, which upset not only my proprioceptive abilities/functioning, my sense of "me" in space, but my use of my limbs, etc, and my choice and use of clothes, and the shock of different body function generally to deal with/get used to. And now there are equally dramatic changes, ranging from the disappearance of periods, ( which is good! :) ) to radically thinning and incr brittle hair, ( after years of cutting my own hair this change had me really "puzzled" for ages, still has, because it's simply no longer the same hair, it needs cutting differently ), and colours look different on me, and and and my smile no longer "works" as well; it's become what I remember my mother saying about her own wide toothy grin of delight, *too* toothy, slightly too ravenous/hungry/OLD.

And another aspect of the physical is the worry, to do with what used to be, for most of my adult life anyway, basic simple processes like keeping my teeth clean, regular bowel movements, ( last time I had big problem with that was actually around age 10-12 ), body odour(s), ( another thing that I remember becoming suddenly an issue in my early teens ), and having to be careful about exercise and joints and yes about my diet such that feel as if I am paddling faster not even to stay in one place but to simply slow down the speed at which I am swept downstream. It's like this year has been some sort of watershed in physical terms. This really is the end of "prime" adulthood.

The other aspect is that of "purpose" or "role": I tend to need a "narrative" or story to make sense of what I'm doing, based on role-models. I used role-models to "design" my "girl/young woman performance/behaviour, mostly taken from books and magazines and some films, and it turned out to be rather unsatisfactory, limited. It lasted until my mid-late 20's and then crashed. I've been through two more since, the last one "parent/mother" ... The thing is that if it's going to be physically painful or even just physically uncomfortable/stressful/unpleasant and I don't have a "vocation" or a partner I'd miss or even a hobby that engrosses me or anything other than a string of "pastimes" ( to pass the time ) ... I wonder sometimes why I would stick around after my son is 18/adult/independent. I hardly ever speak to my own parents, who seem to live in a sort of suspended animation of small regular shopping trips and sensible bedtimes and minimal healthy cooking and tidy washing-up and little walks around their local area and reading the local paper and watching a few favourite programmes on TV and rereading old favourite books.

I accept that for some people "old age" or the years from 50 or 60 onwards may be a lot of fun ... if they spent much of their "main adulthood" with their nose to the grindstone, being responsible/sensible etc, and if they have a decent pension ... but unfortunately I spent most of my younger adulthood ( from teenager to age 36 when I had my son ) adventuring. What could old age possibly offer me that I didn't have better when I was still young and fit/easily healthy as well? And for the last twelve and a half years I have been a full-time mother, ( my son home-unschooling ), and am used to lots of leisure time. It's almost as if I need to now find some way, some narrative/storyline/roleplay which would enable me, support me, cause me, to work hard and persistently at something for a change ... because otherwise all I "see" ahead of me is many years of passing the time with worse and worse health. I started doing some voluntary work in April, for the first time in my life, two hours a week, and it's ok, but not exactly thrilling. I've been going to a yoga class once a week for over two years now, and to a mixed aerobics and musculation class, and a cardio-walking one, once a week since September. I'm "making an effort". But most things don't seem to "go anywhere", and/or get a bit "same-old" after a while.

What do people do to make sense of enduring/bothering with worsening health? ... not even the really serious sorts, like cancer, etc, but just the aggro of teeth that need cleaning with dental floss, and aching joints?

What stories/narratives do people dream up to make up for the loss of their youth? ... What is this next bit "about"?

PS. I could just be feeling this "blue" about it all because after three years of a gluten-free diet, ( because of the negative effect that gluten seemed to have on my mental health ) I resumed eating gluten in Jan/February and only just cut it out again because of the effect that it once again seemed to be having on my moods etc. ... Or the extent of the physical changes and "stress"/unaccustomed unpleasantness this last year or two is such that I need "extra good reasons" to put up with it.
.



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02 Dec 2011, 4:23 pm

PPS. Rereading this last post of mine I realise that perhaps it sounds horribly negative ... :oops

The thing is though that I'm suddenly feeling the need to express all the "negative" about it, because it is dawning on me that this isn't going to stop, it's not like having a cold or a tummy bug; it won't ever go away; in fact it's going to get worse, whereas until recently I think I've been reacting to the changes as if they are simply a broken arm, a pain and a nuisance, or a bad tummy bug etc, something which I just have to grit my teeth and tolerate until it's over ... but this is only going to be over when I die ... it's not like wanting desperately to leave home, to the point of running away, when I was 11, 12, 13, or 14, and could count the years until my "freedom". :(
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03 Dec 2011, 3:22 am

@ouinon- I suggest you try to avoid focusing on the fact that your age is about to change from being in your 40's to being in your 50's. It's not as if you will age 10 years on midnight of your birthday when you turn 50. The way I see it, (on that moment- at midnight) you are only aging one minute.

I have had to pay more attention to my health for a while now (I am in my mid 50's) instead of being healthy automatically. I now have to make sure I eat enough fiber and drink enough water each day. Otherwise, I personally have no complaints. I enjoy exercise and always have. I've always been pretty healthy.

I don't assume I will become less and less happy. If anything, I expect the opposite. I try for a balance. I avoid sticking my head in the sand in the attempt to attain blissful ignorance of potential problems. I also try to count my blessings and focus on positive, uplifting things.



ouinon
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03 Dec 2011, 2:09 pm

Rocky wrote:
@ouinon- I suggest you try to avoid focusing on the fact that your age is about to change from being in your 40's to being in your 50's. It's not as if you will age 10 years on midnight of your birthday when you turn 50. ...

I know that.

But this has actually very little to do with my thinking about turning 50 ... It is about the fact that my body is 48 years old and it's beginning to show signs of its age, and I'm beginning to realise precisely that this is NOT something that will go away, ie. my body is entering a permanently downward spiral phase in which I will probably have to pay more and more attention to/spend more and more time and care on my body to keep it up and running. ... This new situation is difficult/challenging for me. ... I had in fact been paying very little attention to my "age" and I am surprised, shocked even, to see that my age is in fact important/relevant data.

Rocky wrote:
I don't assume I will become less and less happy.

I didn't either ... and I don't believe that I necessarily will, but ...

It is coming as a shock to me to realise that there is something distinctly different about this change, about this set of difficulties, which is that they will only come to an end when I die. ...

I am thinking that I need to develop/form a significantly different set of purposes or values or standards or reasons for living to do with the fact that I can never expect to ever again feel as fit and energetic and supple and "bouncy" and obliviously able/capable/strong and "clean" ( and and and all those things which belong to most young people ) as I did at 20 or 25.

As someone ( mv? ) already said, I am becoming aware that I need to "find comfort" or "value" in different things ... and this is not as easy as it might sound. ... It's possible that this is why my two-decades long special interest in diet and mental health etc suddenly seemed to evaporate about this time last year, as if part of me was beginning to realise that constantly exploring and calibrating/controlling the chemical state of my body, though still relevant, was not going to achieve the sort of impressive/inspiring/amazing results of old, nor the same degree of satisfaction.
.



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05 Dec 2011, 2:13 pm

ouinon wrote:
Rocky wrote:
@ouinon- I suggest you try to avoid focusing on the fact that your age is about to change from being in your 40's to being in your 50's. It's not as if you will age 10 years on midnight of your birthday when you turn 50. ...

I know that.

But this has actually very little to do with my thinking about turning 50 ... It is about the fact that my body is 48 years old and it's beginning to show signs of its age, and I'm beginning to realise precisely that this is NOT something that will go away, ie. my body is entering a permanently downward spiral phase in which I will probably have to pay more and more attention to/spend more and more time and care on my body to keep it up and running. ... This new situation is difficult/challenging for me. ... I had in fact been paying very little attention to my "age" and I am surprised, shocked even, to see that my age is in fact important/relevant data.

Rocky wrote:
I don't assume I will become less and less happy.

I didn't either ... and I don't believe that I necessarily will, but ...

It is coming as a shock to me to realise that there is something distinctly different about this change, about this set of difficulties, which is that they will only come to an end when I die. ...

I am thinking that I need to develop/form a significantly different set of purposes or values or standards or reasons for living to do with the fact that I can never expect to ever again feel as fit and energetic and supple and "bouncy" and obliviously able/capable/strong and "clean" ( and and and all those things which belong to most young people ) as I did at 20 or 25.

As someone ( mv? ) already said, I am becoming aware that I need to "find comfort" or "value" in different things ... and this is not as easy as it might sound. ... It's possible that this is why my two-decades long special interest in diet and mental health etc suddenly seemed to evaporate about this time last year, as if part of me was beginning to realise that constantly exploring and calibrating/controlling the chemical state of my body, though still relevant, was not going to achieve the sort of impressive/inspiring/amazing results of old, nor the same degree of satisfaction.
.


Although you are probably aware of this, I would still like to point out something: Because of the challenges of an older body, it is now more important than ever to pay attention to things like eating properly. I agree that this is unfortunate. It is necessary, however, to be able to enjoy other aspects of our lives. I expect this will get easier as it becomes part of my daily routine, through habit.