Mini Me

I have always thought of myself as medium-tall(ish). At 5’6,” that’s almost 2 ½” taller than the average woman who was born in the U.S. Although I have a lot of female friends who are taller than I am, I have enough friends of shorter stature to make me feel relatively vertically endowed. I’m always pleased to help when someone asks me to pluck an item from a top store shelf for them.

My drivers license says that I am 5’6,” medical documents say I’m 5’6,” my passport and global entry records say I’m 5’6.” Anywhere I’ve been asked to indicate my height information, I’ve written 5’6.”

Apparently, I am no longer 5’6.”

At a recent doctor appointment, a nurse not only asked me to stand on a scale (they never take our word for it, do they?), but to take off my shoes and have my height measured with a stadiometer. No problem… until I asked her how tall I was.

Big surprise.

I am aware that people generally shrink as they get older. Research indicates that women lose an average of 2 inches between the ages of 30 and 70 (and just over 3 inches by age 80). Men don’t lose quite as much on average – 1 inch by 70, and 2 inches by age 80. There is a huge variability in the amount lost and at what age, but just about all of us will shrink.

I just wasn’t aware that it had happened to me.

Normal age-related shrinkage is often due to the dehydration and compression of the discs between the vertebrae in the spine. In addition, our aging spines can become more curved and we lose bone density. Even the flattening of our arches can cause us to be shorter.

Shrinkage can also indicate other health issues, including an increased risk of bone fractures. Several studies have found that people over 65 who lost at least 2 inches in the past 15 to 20 years were at significantly higher risk for hip fracture than those who shrank less. That’s why it’s important to get measured at least once a year (don’t just fill in a box with how tall you think you are).

Most of the causes of shrinkage – including genetics – are out of our control, but we can take steps to protect our bones and muscles now. Weight-bearing exercise, ensuring adequate levels of calcium, vitamin D, and other bone-healthy nutrients, not drinking alcohol to excess, and not smoking, can all help mitigate the downward progression.

So now I am trying to come to terms with not being 5’6” and I’m not very happy about it. I am no longer tall(ish)… I’m closer to average. And, if I don’t want to become an even mini-er me, I’d better do what I can to stop the shrinkage now.

Author: RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

117 thoughts on “Mini Me”

  1. Janis, Having never achieved 5’2″, despite what my license says, you have no sympathy from me. But the shrinkage is real. My mom, who never achieved 5′ (I get my height-challenged genes from her) is now 4″8″. I do believe I have some control of my future height (yoga, strength training, Vitamin D), but I’m sure I will never really be the 5’2″, eyes of blue girl I always believed I was.

    1. Wait… your drivers license isn’t fully accurate? Ha! It sounds like you are doing the right things to maintain healthy bones, which is great. Assuming that your eyes really are blue, I guess you are half-way to your goal!

    2. Hello!

      I am having a deep chuckle because I went through the same thing. How dare the medical assistant take off half an inch from my height? I’ve always been 5’7″ and I intend to remain 5’7″ for the rest of my life, ha ha. Yeah, keep wishing. But she marked me down as 5’6 1/2 (the nerve!) and all I could think of was — age and shrinking, just as you lay out in this great post.

      I do lots of stretching, yoga, exercise, reaching for the stars in order to create more room between those vertebrae, and i guess there are some things I just can’t change although I would like to: aging, taxes, and death!

      It was great to come here and read something that matched up exactly to what I had experienced this week at the doctor’s office. At age 65, maybe I should be grateful it’s just a half inch right now.

      Cheers,
      Susan Grace

      1. Somehow I missed your comment, my apologies. Isn’t it funny how much we define ourselves by our height? I remember when someone described me as “tiny” (I have no idea why, except maybe because I have a small bone structure) and I was insulted! Keep up with all that exercise and stretching you do… and hang on to every 1/2″ you have!

        1. Ha ha, when I was heavier I would be called “statuesque”! People were being kind, I’m sure; so “tiny” is good. I have used it for people who have a small bone structure . So not such a bad thing.

          And thanks, I’ll try to keep a grip on those half inches😁

          Cheers to you,

          Susan Grace

  2. You’re singing to the choir! I inherited osteoporosis from my Mother, and for years, took the same medicine for it that she did (Fosomax). But a bone scan last year indicated the bone density in my spine was decreasing. Off I went for what i thought was a ‘shot’ but was actually an infusion of Reclast. The plan is one infusion per year for 3 years, and that should take care of it. And according to my Endocrinologist, all your recommendations are correct: Calcium, Vitamin D, and heavy weights (and not the 5 lbs or 8 lbs!), weight bearing exercise, and no smoking. However, I understand red wine is an excellent preventative measure for this condition. (Okay, not really…..!!) I have not measured myself lately; I will have to do so and check for shrinkage!

    1. I’m glad that you are on top of things and getting monitored for any bone density loss. After I broke my hip a couple of years ago, I am more aware of the natural loss that we all experience. Even though much of it is out of our control, we can make those small efforts to keep ourselves healthy.

  3. Janis, the picture reminds me of Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann character in the big rocker. If it makes you feel better, as my hair thins on top, the shorter I get. My basketball height is 6’5″ but coaches tend to round up. Now, I am closer to 6’4.” Boo hiss.

    Well we will just have to make up for it with living large. Best regards, Keith

      1. Janis, my wife and I love your husband’s “grounded” comment. You reminded me of Casey Kasem’s close to his show, “Keep your feet on the ground and reach for the stars.” Keith

  4. I am taller than tall-ish at 5’10”. At least, that’s what all my documents say, since I “matured” when I was 16. I best get out and measure myself, after reading this.

    Great advice, thanks!

  5. I’m 5’9”…or I was. I haven’t had my height measured in years. When I turned 50, I started having bone density tests every few years since having Crohn’s Disease puts me at a higher risk for osteoporosis. My Vitamin D levels were extremely below normal, but taking D3 has really brought it up. It’s important to monitor your D levels as being deficient has been linked to several cancers.

    1. I think some people say that they “never go to the doctor” as a statement of health. But, there are so many future problems that doctors can spot early and help us defend ourselves against. And, of course, as we get older, it becomes more important to get periodic check-ups. I’m glad you were able to get your Vitamin D levels up.

  6. I don’t seem to be following the normal shrinkage route. I am 5’9″ and have been since junior high. I do see my mother and sister shrinking, so I’m not sure why I’m not. Can’t think of anything I’ve done to avoid it. Maybe I’ll see it in the next few years? Regardless, I’m glad I haven’t lost my height although sometimes I feel a little out of place with my friends. I look like a monster compared to them!!

    1. Although at least some shrinkage is almost always inevitable, there doesn’t seem to be a pattern. I’ve got small bone structure so I’ve been told that I am more susceptible (lucky me!). I’m sure you don’t look like a monster compared to your friends… stand proud! They probably envy your height.

  7. Hi Janis – This is a very good reminder to go to our physical exam and get feedback from our nurse and doctor. I like your husband’s comment about being more grounded 🙂

  8. Am I allowed to laugh here? I had a similar experience and I just stood in the doc’s office saying: huh? I didn’t know what to make of it as I’ve always been 5’6” for as long as I can remember. Life throws us curves, in the most unexpected ways.

  9. I should check my driver’s license to see what it says. I never update that thing. There was a time (in a galaxy far far away) when I was 5’4″. Now I struggle to hit 5’2″ but I know I have osteoporosis. Getting old isn’t for sissies.

    1. I have been the same height and weight for years (or so my drivers license says). I worried about osteoporosis when I broke my hip. Although I don’t show signs, my doc suggested that I do what I can to strengthen my bones. Just another joyful part of aging!

  10. Great photo, Janis!

    I think we tend to compress with age – both pain and fatigue cause us to hunch down. I first noticed it when I started running many years ago. As I got tired, my body would start to shrink in on itself. My mantra was always ‘run tall’.
    I’ve found that regular stretching and yoga makes a big difference since – if nothing else – it makes us more posture aware, and “be tall” is still a mantra I repeat to myself throughout the day.

    The last time I had my height taken – about 18 months ago – I hadn’t shrunk … yet. I’d prefer to keep it that way.

    1. I really need to start yoga… and commit to sticking with it. I also try to walk and stand tall. I see so many older people hunched over and I don’t want to do that. I really feel like asking for a do-over from the doctor’s office 🙂

  11. It seems lately, I’ve heard words like that myself. Sobering, but part of the aging process that I guess we have to be aware of and accepting of even if we don’t particularly like it. I was always about 5’7 1/2″ tall. Not quite now though, and I just found out my feet are now flat and that brings a different set of challenges. You’ve got to maintain your sense of humor with these golden years. 🙂

    1. Nature keeps throwing stuff at us as we get older, doesn’t it? Overall, I feel pretty healthy and I would just as soon keep it that way for as long as I can. You are keeping active and engaged, Judy, so that’s more than half the battle, I think.

  12. I’ve been a little concerned about this happening to me. My mom who was 5’4″ for most of my life has a bit of spine curve/hump and is maybe 5ft tall now. I was always 5’6 3/4″ but, think I’ve shrunk some. I wonder if I’m going to get the spine issue my Mom has?

    I do love yogurt, milk, cheese, and I sure hope carrying my camera bag plus tripod as much as I do counts toward weight bearing exercise!

    1. I definitely think that carrying your camera bag and tripod counts! I don’t know if you’ve checked with a doctor about your concern. I think they have ways to test for indications and can suggest ways to avoid and/or lessen the probability.

  13. My wife is always complaining that for all the gym visits she does, she never loses weight. I always remind her that it’s her bones she needs to worry about more. Just keep moving to slow any onset of osteoporosis. Great advice on health and diet, Janis. And a very fun picture to boot. – Marty

  14. A fun photo Janis, it made me smile. You are about the same height as myself. Though in my family of tall brothers 6’4″ and the Squire I feel short. Though we are all becoming shorter as time goes on. I have a slight humped back due to a motorcycle accident which compressed 3 vertabras. So yes exercise is very important to keep up for all of us who are aging 😊

  15. Funny thing, I’ve been 5ft 4 and 3/4ths for decades and then in my 40s I measured at a full 5ft 5in!!! Now? Still the same but my weight? Well now, that’s another aging aspect that is driving me crazy!!!!
    😀

    1. Fortunately, I just have brothers and I’m “supposed” to be shorter then they are :). Despite this recent news, I still feel taller than most also. I just need to remember to stand up straight and walk tall (even if I’m a bit less so).

  16. That is a fun photo Janis – perfect to show the new “mini-you”. Wow – I have heard of shrinking a little, but had no idea it could be that much. Your facts certainly opened my eyes. I am (or was … I’ve not been measured in a while) 5 foot, 9 inches tall. Once it became easier to buy pants in tall lengths, I embraced being tall more. My mom was 5 foot, 2 inches tall; my father 5 foot, 3 inches tall, so of course it was the perpetual “milkman” joke when the subject of my height came up.

    1. Wow, that’s a big difference from your mom and dad’s heights! You must have had someone in your way back gene pool that was tall (or, maybe there was a milkman involved 🙂 ). I’m still taller than the “average” so I haven’t had to hem my pant legs… yet.

      1. My father said his grandmother was fairly tall (of course to him, at just 5’3″, any woman taller than him would seem tall). I have pictures standing between my parents and I looked like an amazon! Most pictures he took of me, my head was cut off. You really gave me some food for thought Janis. I need to get myself measured soon to check it out.

  17. This is a good reminder to check my height again. I don’t think it has shrunk much (yet), but I’ve certainly fallen into the wider trap. Per your example, I’m going to get bigger furniture so I will look petite and dainty.

  18. I have shrunk several inches, but since I can’t remember numbers easily, it doesn’t disturb me very often — only when people ask my height. I cheated once, looking at my driver’s license to see how tall I used to be. I hope your shrinkage won’t bother you unduly.

  19. I’m sure I’ve also shrunk a bit, although I haven’t actually been told! I’m still claiming my own 5’6” until someone forces me to confront the truth! 🙂

  20. Remember growing up, how we used to mark our heights on the door jamb. Maybe we should start marking again as we shrink.

  21. Janis, your cute photo and your husband’s comment both drive home the point that it’s all about perspective. Although it’s impossible to keep the aging process at bay forever, taking good care of our physical and emotional health and maintaining a positive attitude can make a huge difference in our quality of life as we get older. One of my favorite quotes is, “Age is mostly mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” I don’t know who said it, but I do believe in the truth of it!

    1. I love that quote too. I admit being thrown for a loop a bit, but, after reading about height loss as we age, it really wasn’t too bad. We can’t control much of the aging process, but we can support ourselves with healthy behaviors and a good attitude.

  22. Did I miss your new height, Janis? I’ve been 5’8″ since age 18 and last I checked I was 5’7 1/2″ Shrinking is inevitable. I read your comment on trying yoga, you will be more aware of your body. Between balance and stretching against the urge to hunch, you will love it. A great post about life and I, too, love that photo!

  23. At 5’2″ I have always been the shortest in my family so I probably won’t even realize it if I shrink. Haven’t been measured for some time. Heels help me be a little taller! Just don’t wear them as high as I used to. Good post and reminder of what happens as we age and how to help prevent it.

    1. I don’t wear heels very often anymore either. Partly due to comfort, partly because I just don’t attend many “fancy” events anymore. My feet thank me every day. After researching age-related shrinkage, I’m surprised that doctors don’t measure their patients more often. I don’t seem to be able to avoid the scale, even for a completely unrelated exam 🙂

  24. Very wise advice! A little shrinkage is normal, but a lot can point to a real health issue. And we all need to be careful that we are doing the best we can to maintain good, healthy bones as we age. I’m already on calcium!

  25. Hi Janis
    Great post. I’ve shrunk a bit to, but I’m only admitting to 1/2″. This makes me 5’4 1/2″ I’m still the tallest female in my family though.
    Love the over sized chair
    Laura

  26. Great photo of you on that chair, Janis. Reading the title, I didn’t quite know what to expect from your post. I think we’re all aware of the shrinkage as we get older, but it usually happens to other people, right? The ones who are much older. I seem to forget that we all get older every day, until it’s our time to shrink. I’ve taken my height for granted – 1m68cm (I think that’s 5’10”), but maybe it’s time to double-check! While being tall as a teenager wasn’t fun, on an adult world, it has come in quite handy at times. So, what is your new length? Or is that as bad to ask as what your age is (now)?

    1. Losing some height is inevitable, it seems but there are still things we can do to help. You get a lot of exercise and eat pretty healthily, which is great. As far as how tall I am? Let’s just say that I’m still tall enough to be asked by some people to reach high selves in the grocery store 🙂

      1. There’s an adorable typo in your last sentence, which I beg you not to correct. Please will you hand me that high self that I have been striving for all these years? I am now only 5ft 1, after a lifetime of 5’1 3/4. My mother used to console me by saying tall men would help me by reaching higher shelves for me, and yes, she considered that romantic . Sigh. Of the exercise that probably has helped me I value dance and Pilates— oh no, it’s all good, walking, weights, and carrying groceries.

  27. Hi Janis! I guess I’ve always suspected that people shrink as they get older but because I was in denial for so long I never even considered it would happen to me. Hahaha! But I didn’t know that about how shrinkage could indicate bone issues so that is certainly something to be aware of, right? I do know that my feet have gotten bigger! What’s with that?? Oh well, small price to pay for all the benefits of this stage of life 😉 . ~Kathy

    1. You are so right… I don’t mind losing some height, thinning hair, wrinkles, etc. as a trade-off for our life right now. As long as we are healthy, it’s really not that big a deal. I wonder if “bigger” feet indicate some flattening of our arches? I’m more comfortable 1/2 size up lately.

  28. Hi Janis, I used to be 5’4 and 1/2 inches. That 1/2” makes all the difference😊I often ask for help plucking an item from a top shelf. Great information, Janis. Especially how our body changes and the medical repercussions. Now I am curious! A great photo of you in the chair😊:) Erica

  29. Your post was timely. I went for my annual physical on Tuesday. The nurse wasn’t going to measure me—she said it wasn’t necessary, but I insisted. A half an inch has disappeared!
    During my youth, I HATED being tall. Shedding a half an inch would have been welcome back then. No so much today.

  30. I’ve got the calcium intake and vitamin D down, Proud to say I quit smoking years ago. But I’ve failed to do enough weight bearing exercises aboard Amandla (those electronic winches have made me flabby) and don’t get me started about learning to drink like a sailor out here 😱. Thank you for the inspiration in this post to keep myself at 5’ 3” … maybe. Need to go have myself measured Love you in the big chair.

    1. The weight-bearing exercise is the tough one for me too. I walk, but I know I should do more. Too many modern conveniences make it so easy to miss getting enough exercise. I don’t know about drinking like a sailor, but sitting on your boat toasting the sunset with a glass of wine, sounds good to me!

  31. Janis – I love this humorous take on ‘grounding.’ Last year, I got the same news at my annual physical. But I’d gained a half-inch or so in my forties (either through yoga or some fudging of previous records) and so everything seemed to even out. My hope is that hearing loss may take care of any future recalculations of my fading stature. Cheers – Susan

  32. Okay, I had to check my height. I always thought I was 5′ 1 3/4″. Today I am 5′ 1/4″. Yikes – no wonder my counter tops seem to have got higher…

  33. I “resemble this remark,” as my friend often says. Great post. By the time I was in college, I was feeling way too tall and gawky at 5 foot 7 3/4 inches. My mom was 5 foot 3 and adorably small. I felt like a giant next to her. Always wished I could be petite and cute. Well, when I hit my 50s I went in for my physical with a new doctor and argued with the nurse when she told me I was 5 foot 7. NO, I’m 5′ 7 3/4 inches I declared. That’s when I learned about ‘shrinkage.’ Be careful what you wish for….. 🙂

    1. Ain’t it true… short people want to be taller, tall people want to be shorter… at least when we are young and unsure of ourselves. Your argument with the nurse reminded me of when I asked for a new weigh-in. They originally weighed me fully clothed, then I had to remove my clothes for an exam. I insisted on a naked re-weigh and that they record that result. 🙂

  34. I had to laugh at this, you have a great sense of funny! I have been 5’4″ for a long time. Then I went to the Dr. one day and I was 5’3″. In March I had my third Dexa scan and I also had osteoporosis. Prolia was what I needed said my PCP. I’m still giving that a lot of thought after seeing the side effects. I was shocked… I thought I’d guzzled enough milk to take care of my bones for a lifetime!

  35. I love Joanne’s daily mantra of thinking “be tall.” However, even if I repeat it to myself all day long, I’ll still only be 5 feet and half an inch tall. But maybe if I think it hard enough, I’ll keep that precious half an inch a few years longer??

    Jude

  36. How interesting, Janis. I knew that most people shrink some as they age, but I didn’t realize by how much on average. I am 5’8″ and still measured so on my last doctor’s appointment. I’m going to keep an eye on that.

  37. Such a great post. So well written and with so much humor, I could not help but laugh out loud. “Vertically endowed” ~ I have to remember that one!

    I have never thought to check my height to see if I am still 5’7.5 Now you have me curious. I am also curious as to how much you shrunk.. surely not as much as the photo might indicate!? 🙂

    Ok SHRINKAGE. A new thing to worry about as we age.

    Peta

    1. Thankfully I didn’t shrink into a doll-sized version of my former self! My total shrinkage depends on what the nurse said (YIKES!) or what my husband found when he measured me at home afterwards (much better). I’m sticking with my husband’s outcome, it was much less distressing. 🙂

  38. I used to be 5’2″. Then I was told I went down to 5′ 1 1/2″. And then recently I was told I was 5’2″. Well, at least I know I am still able to stand upright 🙂

    1. Haha! I really think height can vary (just like weight). It is easy to stretch our spines to get an extra 1/2″ or 1″ when we are being measured. I’m impressed that you got that 1/2″ back 🙂 It’s a good reminder to walk tall at all times.

    2. Happened to me too – 5’2″ down to 5’1/2″ but I upped the number of Pilates and other stretch classes and I’m back to where I started. I’m just wondering if I can make myself taller in retirement than I have ever been; one day I might be able to reach the top shelf in my kitchen cupboards. You have to have ambition and aim high!

      1. Good for you! I’m thinking that I need to add Pilates to my exercise routine. I’d love to gain back what the nurse said that I lost. Even if I could reach the top shelf, I’d be afraid of grabbing something heavier than expected and have it all come crashing down on my head.

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