Maggie Frederick, 84, lives in Arvada.
Editor's note: This piece originally appeared in the Summer 2012 edition of Health Elevations, the Colorado Health Foundation's award-winning, quarterly journal.
What can I tell you?
I've been asked to describe how the "Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions" class, offered by the Consortium for Older Adult Wellness, has benefited me, improved my life and helped me adjust to the limitations that chronic conditions bring on. But I am still a work in progress.
I took the class in 2008, when I had to finally face the reality of several chronic diseases affecting my life. Diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and arthritis, for the most part, seemed to become part of my life as I entered my 70s, and by 2008 I was almost 80.
Now, four years later, here I am – still going, stronger than ever, and adjusted to these so-called "limitations" in my life. I just returned from a 15-day journey on a riverboat in southern France – unassisted, unlimited and full of energy and excitement. So I can attest that all these teachings do work, do produce results and actually can improve one's life. And they can work for anyone, anywhere.
The class included so many useful ideas, but a few proved especially helpful to me. Here are some: Being diabetic, watching portion control as well as content is important. So I use a smaller plate and eat at more frequent intervals, always mindful of those no-nos. I still experience low blood sugar levels, but I find a bit of juice or a caramel will put me in balance quickly.
I finally had a much-needed hip replacement, and most of my leg pains have disappeared. Sleeping at night is painless since I introduced an electric blanket to my bedding. That was a major improvement.
As one ages, falls are more likely. I am very cautious about that and even had a carpenter install three wider, shallower steps down into my much-used family room. Did I mention that I live alone? I also had a second railing put on all the stairways in my house. Believe me, that makes a world of difference.
I premeasure all my meds and vitamins into plastic capped containers, several days at a time. I use those old-time film canisters. I'm very bad at exercise programs, though I do use the Silver Sneakers program. I do most of my own yardwork with the exception of mowing. I also do all my own housework and cook nutritious meals.
The consortium offers a lot of classes, including living with diabetes, arthritis or cancer, fall prevention and tai chi for osteoarthritis. Some classes are also taught in Spanish. A full list is available at www.coaw.org.
All in all, I've learned some great, usable ideas that really work. Most important of all, I feel, is attitude. I accept limitations but they aren't deterrents to keep me from enjoying a full, stimulating life.