Ageing can be cruel.
My dad is a proud man and for a very long time he refused to admit that there were things that he really should not be attempting to do any more. Gardening, climbing ladders, getting in and out of the loft, even getting out of the car when space was restricted - all these things could leave him in agony. Perhaps hardest to admit was that he could no longer walk very far.
I was so pleased when he made his life a little easier by applying for a disabled badge. It meant that he could park close to the shops and go to the bank again without too much of a struggle. And the world didn't collapse in on itself just because he accepted his disability.
Maybe as a result of his time serving in the army, my dad has always had a very upright posture. He stood over six feet tall, stuck his chest out and held his head high. Boyfriends I had in my teenage years did find him quite intimidating and his very existence could pour cold water on any potential lust fuelled fumbles.
Over the years, my dad's height noticibly diminished. His legs bowed out and he began to stoop. He still maintained the larger than life air that he has always carried but his physical presence no longer matched it.
My mum is fond of saying that she Believes in Fate and one day through a chance meeting, Fate lead my dad to a weekly exercise class designed to improve strength and balance. Dad completely embraced the opportunity. Each week, he gave it everything he had and practised at home. Before long he was enjoying praise for being the star performer in the class and helped other people who were less able. Mum was always there to support him. They made new friends who have given them a focus to their social life. They both seem happier and more positive. Dad is always keen to show off his moves for anyone who will watch!
The difference the exercises have made to my dad physically is amazing. He is standing taller, he can straighten more, his flexibility has improved and he seems to be able to manage his aches and pains better.
Recently, they were asked if they would be willing to take part in a video to demonstrate the benefits of the exercise programme to other members of the medical profession. Dad was like an excited kid and mum was already composing her Oscar acceptance speech. They loved it. Yesterday, mum rang me to tell me that the video was now available to view on YouTube.
I felt so proud watching my parents (Jill and Stanley) on the short film, endorsing something they both totally believe in - something that genuinely has enhanced their quality of life.
Friendship, camaraderie, routine, gentle exercise, praise and the odd film crew have certainly proved to be vital ingredients for my parents health and well being.