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Many years ago, in the summer of my youth, I designed an exercise and movement program for older adults.  I even convinced Georgia Public television to film me leading the programs with the intention of broadcasting them as a series and selling them to Senior Centers. It was successful and it was gratifying.  It also became popular.

papa john

This was my theme music.

I called the program Keep on Movin’, Use It or Lose It.  I found willing participants at a local black church in Athens Georgia.  They were a lively, trusting and eager group to work with.  I think we all had fun. I found the perfect theme music when I somehow heard a recording by a Southern blues violinist, Papa John Creach, who in a bluesy fashion sang to Keep on Movin!  I had no TV experience, but somehow we put it together.  Needless to say, it was a barebones production, but we all felt like we were doing something important.

Little did I think that decades later I would find myself in a position where my own movement was compromised by my own inactivity!

japanese dining

I was shocked to discover, the last time I was in Japan, that I could barely hoist myself from my sitting position on the floor at dinner to a standing position after dinner! Everyone I had dined with had risen with ease.   No matter how much I wanted to lift myself up, my legs just wouldn’t get the message.  I laughed a bit nervously to cover up my embarrassment, and finally asked a friend to give me a hand and pull me up.  I felt about as graceful as a beached whale. Not a great image to have of yourself. How had this happened?

The phrase use it or lose it, popped into my mind.  Since suffering from chronic asthma, I’d become a lot less active.  In addition, my tai chi teacher had moved away and I didn’t have the discipline to continue practice on my own. This was a big loss after twenty years of doing Tai Chi 4-5 days a week.   When a hip began to hurt,  my walking career ended . A visit to a physical therapist made it worse.   It was a discouraging development, to say the least.  Did I mention that I’d also gained weight?

The Beginning of the End?

I tried to ignore my new shortcomings, fortunately to no avail.  The moment of truth had arrived.  Once a dancer, I expected to always have some reasonable control over my body.  Now, it was no longer the case.  That illusion was over.    My adult children gave me increasingly sad looks., that seemed to say,  What’s happening to you Mom?

Finally, with sufficient motivation, I found a wonderful and smart personal trainer, and also joined a strength training program at our hospital.  In less than a month, my body has joined the party again. My posture has shaped up.  I can now raise my own body off the floor with confidence.  My clothes are starting to fit just a little better,  I am very pleased with my improved status.  My body and I have reconnected.  I never thought it could happen so quickly, nor that it was possible.

Why didn’t I listen sooner to my own message from so many years ago?   Denial.  I never thought those words of warning in my program would apply to me.  I never thought I could or would “grow old.”

So my message?  Don’t give up on yourself.  It’s Use it, or Lose it Time.




Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.