There are, of course, different types and levels of pain.  No one’s pain is better or worse than anyone else’s.  Pain is highly subjective and no matter how empathetic any of us are, our own pain is the most significant.  All this is said to avoid being misunderstood when declaring that pain is remarkably different when we are older. 

What’s different you ask?  The abundance.  The variety and haphazardness of it.  As we age, pain can become almost constant.  It can be like an ambush by an injury that happened long ago, not much of an issue then, but this morning it is back as a dull ache, a hitch in your giddy-up, an uncomfortable stiffness that just won’t go away or an all-out assault.

You may turn wrong or pivot incorrectly and suddenly your knee sends up a lightning bolt reminder that it doesn’t like that sort of twist or appreciate quick turns.  Reach for something on the third shelf and suddenly your shoulder has an opinion on that kind of effort.

Of course, we are all different, but with few exceptions, some form of regular discomfort eventually becomes part of the aging process.  We accommodate, maneuvering around the flash points as we fight to remain active.

We learn to be stoic about our discomfort, but that can be a problem, because some things aren’t just the way they are, they are indicators of a growing problem and our bodies are screaming, “Get some help!” 

Case in point, I struggled far too long with a bad hip thinking that it was just me getting older, sorer, and slower.  After the operation, I felt more energetic and, yes, younger.  Wow, was that a close call.  I could have gone on for years making adjustments and I met many people at the clinic who had. 

That’s my point.  We often feel we shouldn’t run to the doctor every time somethings hurts.  Some weeks, that could mean spending every day in the waiting room waiting to share the latest passing discomfort.  But we must listen to our bodies and hear the difference between an old injury kicking up again and a serious symptom of something wrong that is getting worse. 

One of my favorite doctors put it to me perfectly, “I’ve got good news and bad news.  The good news is you are very healthy and could enjoy a long life.  The bad news is every injury you’ve ever had is going to come back and haunt you.  We can’t hope to fix everything.  Our challenge is to pick the battles we must win.  The war is about mobility.  Anything that restricts your mobility, we’ve got to find a way to do something about it. The rest you just may have to learn how to live with.”


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About the author

Scott Funk has specialized in Home Equity Conversion Mortgage reverse mortgages for over a decade. He is a recognized Aging in Place advocate in his home state of Vermont. His monthly newspaper column Aging in Place has run for 7 years in 24 papers around the state. Scott is brings a lighthearted approach to his talks on Boomers, retirement and aging on purpose.