An Ordinary morning in the life of a healthy octogenarian


By Carol Shipley

After at least two “nature” calls in the night, I awaken around 5:30 a.m. with another desperate urge. It’s a tough call – I’m unable to hold it, yet when I get out of bed, I’m unable to move due to arthritis which has caused my leg, hip and groin muscles to seize up. I drip my way to the bathroom. My eyes are dry – they feel dry and itchy about eight times a day – so I give them their first Systane dose of the day. I notice that my big right toe, with the nail that has a tendency to in-grow, is bright red, and I resolve to drop in on the foot-care nurse this week to treat it – ouch! My left hip is shouting at me, so I dig the cold compress out of the freezer and spread it over that hip while I sip my coffee and read The Guardian Weekly for optimistic news stories. Ha! The bursitis in my left thigh is telling me to do something, so I leave my favourite chair to get the Voltaren gel, squirt it on my thigh and rub it in. Does it do any good? My back seems to be itching all over, so my handy backscratcher from the dresser drawer comes into use.

Now it’s time to get dressed. Bra is a challenge. It involves placing the hook ends to the front of the old bod, attach it, swing it around to the back and then inch my arms into the straps. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Socks are a bigger challenge. The stool on which I place each foot in turn has to be exactly 18 inches high. If lower, I can’t bend over to get the socks on; if higher, I can’t get my feet up high enough. I put in my hearing aids – they feel like itchy bugs in each ear, but they help me to hear better.

This is definitely the morning to eat a few prunes – enough said. I don’t take any daily meds except for calcium, a few vitamins and Preservision to stave off AMD (age-related macular degeneration). A soft-boiled egg and a small bowl of granola will do for breakfast. I do much better walking with two sticks than without. They help me to stride instead of mince and to maintain a good balance. With two sticks, people think I’m an athlete; not so with a cane. Now I’m all set for the day.

Off I go with nonagenarian husband Ken to our cardio class for seniors at Abbotsford House. I take breaks by pretending to need frequent sips of water. What I love most about this class is our outrageously funny instructor who understands and loves us like no one else; next, the community of fellow seniors who support each other in a hundred ways while having coffee and cake after class; and least of all, the exercise.

Did you note that I’m a healthy octogenarian and grateful every minute of the day? Well, almost.


Carol Shipley M.S.W., is a long-time member of Abbotsford Seniors Centre, author of Love, Loss, and Longing: Stories of Adoption, and has 87 years of experience, laughter and life!

photo: Pat Goyeche

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