Routines and Rituals

Ritual: a set of actions or words performed at a particular time and in a
precise sequence and way

Routine: commonplace tasks/chores, done regularly or at specified intervals;
typical or everyday activities


If a scale were developed on attitudes toward routines that ranged from “totally loose” to “total rigidity”, I’d fall somewhere in the middle, casually comfortable with some routine but not bent out of shape by some change. As for rituals, I hadn’t thought of them in relationship to my everyday living.

I grew up in a fairly orderly household with routines my mother set up to manage the 1920’s labor-intensive home maintenance requirements. By the time I set up housekeeping in the 1940’s technology had made things much easier and I fitted tasks in around parenting and our work schedules. Once we retired, things became even more casual, though mealtimes tended to stay about the same.

In my dotage, and once I was living alone, the concepts of routines and rituals took on new perspectives (and still another set of the surprising contrasts that keep cropping up as I engage with aging).

These days my time is almost fully my own to do with as I wish, except that routine daily living tasks involving strength and stamina have to be done in the morning and limited in kind and amount to my capacities of that day. So routines have become simultaneously both more and less casual. When my days are wide open (as many of them are), I have full freedom to spend them as I wish, as long as I calculate the endurance required for each task and the recuperation time needed (e.g. this week I put together the ingredients for cookies one day and mixed and baked them the next.) I guess you could say I have a routine of activity and recuperation.

I also find I have this lovely sense that, “there’s always tomorrow,” so procrastination causes more tedious tasks to slide. And sometimes even to, “Does it really matter if something doesn’t get done?” Here, flexibility in routine reigns almost completely.

But something new has been added to my life. I was forced to discover: the need to develop and adhere to rituals that are essential to my wellbeing, even survival. As you read them, they will seem so ridiculously simple that strict rituals would hardly be warranted. But falls, forgetting and frustration finally brought me to the point of ritual creation and adherence to them. Here it matters, a lot, not only that they’re done, but ­when and how they’re done. Here are my essential rituals.

  • Upon rising in the morning:   sit up in bed, unplug my cell phone and set it on the bed beside me (I will need my hands to be free to push myself from sitting to standing position), put on my non-skid slippers, stand, pick up my cell phone and place in its caddy on my walker, go to the bathroom, urinate, wash my hands, weigh myself (to keep me honest in my eating for the day ahead), go to the kitchen, take my 2 pills and set out my vitamins for lunch time.
  • At bedtime:   take the cell phone from its caddy, plug into its charge line, place it on the bedside shelf, check to see that the flashlight and reading glasses are next to it. (The latter two to enable me to see the phone keys without having to reach for an awkwardly placed light switch.)
  • Throughout the day: Keep my walker and its caddy containing my cell phone and reading glasses within hand’s reach.

  • When I put a pan of something on the stove or in the oven and turn on the heat, immediately set the minutes on the timer and push the start button (I’ve been known to forget that too) Multitasking + short term memory lapses made for burnt food and pans; hence this ritual.

  • When I stand from sitting: plant my feet, become fully erect, center myself, grasp the walker handles, and only then take the first step.
  • When I come back from errands: put my wallet, keys and parking card in the cubby hole in the kitchen. (This one is more for subsequent convenience than essential).

As I consciously carry out the steps of these simple rituals, I experience a real sense of safety and security, a surprising secondary benefit.

And so the days go, filled with the contrasts: the comfort of greater rigidity and the luxury of greater flexibility.

Have you developed any rituals associated with your aging?
For your aging friends or family?

Care to share them with me and our readers in “comments”?

1 thought on “Routines and Rituals

  1. I was forever looking for my house and car keys – did I put them in my coat pocket? which coat? my purse? the kitchen table? the counter? It had to stop! So I put a hook on the inside of the door and began to put the keys on the hook as soon as I came in. This has worked so well for me that I will do it wherever I live.

    Exercise – when I was working I did lots of stair climbing with a heavy equipment bag and briefcase with computer and printer and called that my exercise. Once retired I remained active but not in the same way. Last March I made a decision to join a gym and “work out” at least 4 times a week and to and engage a personal trainer once a week. I am absolutely amazed at the improvement in my functional strength and flexibility. I hope to add balance to that list of improvements – although my balance is good I aim to improve it further (it sure isn’t what it was when I was in my 30’s)! I have, over the past year, gotten into the habit of going to the gym 5-6 days a week and working out for 1-2 hours each time. My trainer is not afraid of my age, although he maintains ultimate safety in what he clears me to do on my own. I am doing things I never thought possible – dead lift 128 lbs, leg press 300 lbs. With the research stressing the benefits of exercise for the aging and aged I am glad I have developed this routine and the availability of regular exercise is a high priority as I look at retirement communities. Those communities without a exercise room, trainer or pool have low priority for me.

    Of course, I have developed routines about medications – use of pill boxes and where I keep it so I remember to take the pills I need to take. And working with my physician to get off medications I no longer need is a part of each physician visit.

    I am sure I will develop other routines as I continue to age.
    I also am finding the need to insert periods of quiet activity, like reading and petting the cat, throughout the day, and often a short nap after a good workout.

    Liked by 1 person

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