"I have a positive attitude and I surround myself with positive people. I eat cleanly and have a bowel movement every day -- it makes a difference (wink)."
This wise statement was given to me by a 98-year-old patient when I asked her, "What is the secret to aging gracefully?" This particular person did not use an assistive device, walked faster than me and had better posture than anyone I knew, regardless of age.
Over the past few years, my PT caseload had been predominately made up of the geriatric population. Since I started in skilled nursing therapy, a day hasn't gone by where I haven't learned something from my patients about the human condition. Whether witnessing the steadfast resiliency of an 80-plus-year-old recovering from a pelvic fracture or the gentle wilting of spirit with a person suffering from dementia -- each day holds lessons that I might not have been able to experience if not for physical therapy.
I find treating the geriatric patient as rewarding as a high-level athlete. Typically, my patients are dedicated, respectful to their plan of care and tough-as-nails (there are always those exceptions to the rule, though). As well, there's an absence of the sense of entitlement many other younger patients from different generations carry to their treatment session.
Working in a skilled nursing/long-term care setting with this age group has enabled me to take a hard look at my lifestyle and attitude. What can I do today that will improve my health and quality of life when I'm 90? That is if I'm lucky enough to reach my ninth decade. Personally I've attempted to reduce the level of stress I allow in my life, move my body as much as I can and, as my 98-year-old patient sagely stated -- stay positive.