Old Age Is A Bitch

I have a newsflash for young people. You will have increased medical issues as you age. The choices you make when you are 20, 30 and 40 years old will have a very strong influence over your lifestyle when you are 50, 60 and 70.

As each successive birthday passes, you will be seeing doctors more often and discussing health issues with your friends. Of course, you have choices. You can ignore things that your body tells you, but you will increase the odds of dying young and leaving your family prematurely. My father refused to go to the doctor and get treatment for high blood pressure, and he had a deadly stroke at age 60.

For more years than I can count, I recall watching TV commercials about wonder drugs. Today there are medicines for every ailment, high blood pressure, cholesterol, blood clots, constipation, depression, digesting problems, ulcers, diabetes, skin problems, eye problems and the list goes on. In the old days, I paid little attention to these advertisements, but today, I listen and take note about which drugs I take now and which I might need in the future.

When you were young, you think you will live forever. At 20 and 30 years you should have very few ailments unless you abuse your body, or you are an unlucky person. Eating excessively, rich foods, alcohol, smoking, too little exercise are all a threat. Moderation is the key, but when you are young you don’t give a damn about such things.

Then as you reach 50 or 60, people your age begin to experience serious illness and pass away. Every story is different, every death is sad. But the realization that we don’t live forever begins to create stress and many times it relates to good health.

And of course, the death of grandparents and parents creates a new awareness and more family responsibility which can be stressful for many.

As a septuagenarian, I spend an inordinate amount of time at doctors’ offices. Earlier in my life, I would have my general practitioner perform an annual checkup. Now, I see my cardiologist at least four times a year. My urologist twice a year. Eye doctor twice a year. Dentist twice a year. If you get examined often enough, doctors will find something wrong which results in other tests, usually scans, MRIs, blood tests, urine tests, EKG’s etc. It seems like every week a doctor is poking, probing and testing another part of my body.

My family is blessed because we have excellent health care insurance. What do you do if you cannot see doctors and specialists because they are not approved by your insurance company? Worse, what if you cannot afford to pay for increasingly more doctor visits? These are issues that millions of people face every day not to mention the stress of collecting money from insurance companies after treatment.

When you think about it, the whole story of life and death makes sense. When a car ages it has it has more issues that need to be dealt with. As we age, our bodies and individual parts of our bodies become tired and cease to operate efficiently. Doctors are available to assist us when problems arise. They treat these afflictions by using drugs in many situations. In fact, the use of prescription drugs and pain relievers has become a separate issue for many Americans.

When you get older you feel more aches and pains as your body screams out telling you to slow down and be more selective of your activities. In my case, I played contact sports for many years and that added to the amount of pain I feel every morning when I get out of bed. I’ve learned to live with these aches and pains without using medication which I think is the wisest choice.

We all age. We all have pain. And we all die. These are realities that we must deal with as we grow older. In many cases, people choose to rely on their religion to deal with problems they face and their ultimate demise. In my humble opinion, I think that religions were in part created to help individuals with the many transitions that they have to make during their life. The biggest one of course is death.

This essay is not an analysis of life and death. It’s not sad to age. Our golden years can be wonderful filled with the joys of family. It is a statement of fact and a warning that as time passes there are more problems to deal with then less. Chief among them are our health and quality of life.

Perspectives On Getting Older

Forty-two years ago, I was 30 years old. On my birthday, I found great comfort that I would not retire from work for another 35 years and had many exciting moments ahead of me. My employer at the time forced retirement at age 65. Little did I realize how quickly the time would go by.

My career had its ups and downs, but generally it was pretty good. My health was never an issue in the old days. I began to have annual checkups, and they were uneventful, a pain in the small of my back, wisdom teeth removed and such.

As the years passed, I was seeing doctors more often. The increase was barely discernible in the beginning, but now it’s all encompassing. Our bodies start to scream out for more attention as we move past 60. Hopefully, our problems are few and minor, but the doctors keep testing and probing until they find things that, at worst, will kill you, and at best, are annoying episodes that temporarily disrupt your life.

The luckiest among us have a partner to share the good times and the bad times. When you area older, you naturally worry that that he or she will precede you into heaven. When someone dotes over you for 30 or more years, you really start to depend on them for their wisdom and assistance (and everything).

Of course, there’s usually an extended family involved, children and grandchildren, to afford comfort and make good memories. But, at some point the young people must find their own happiness and will have limited time to give to you as life becomes more difficult and threatening.

Personally, I believe in the afterlife. I refuse to accept that 70, 80 or 90 years of life is the extent of our existence. Anticipating a new beginning at death makes the expectation of our demise more acceptable. In fact, religion and spirituality, I think, were created precisely for the purpose of ushering us into a new life. But I give those who believe death is the final moment of our existence great credibility.

You may ask why I’m writing this diatribe about life and death. I really don’t want to stick my head in the sand. I want to embrace my demise as just another moment in life, the last one. I want to be philosophical about the reality that everyone who lives must also die. I want to be brave when my time comes and give my loved ones the courage to face their ultimate reality.

As I lived my life, I came to understand that a man or a woman is ultimately judged by how they deal with problems during their lives not by how they respond to good times. No one cares how many deals a person does or how much money they accumulate. Rather, it’s the quality of your life, the beauty of your children, your legacies that you leave behind. Were you charitable? Did you help others? Did you create things that made other lives more livable and happier? These are the things that make your family and friends proud to have known you.

In the meantime, as I find my way through the 70s, I intend to weather my inconsequential aches and pains from football and rugby, enjoy my family, tried to talk about and think about important issues and prepare myself for whatever the good Lord has in store for me.

Be well.

America Is Ageing Rapidly

A few days ago I viewed a CNN program about ageing. The guest speakers indicated that all signs pointed to a significant increase in the average life of Americans, and that there will likely be many more people that live past the age of 100.

The reasons for longer life are many. Science, medicine, prevention and treatment of disease, healthier eating habits, cleaner water and a better environment are all playing a part in a dramatic phenomenon that will enable us to survive to advanced ages, and have a good life style.

But the implications of extended live around the world are sometimes problematic. Generally most countries are not replenishing the deaths of people with new births. This has the impact of increasing the average age of people across the globe.

As we all know the older we get, the more we must rely upon medicine and treatment to fight off disease and to contend with our ageing bodies. This means that over time health care will become even more important than it is today. Access to and affordability of drugs to deal with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other ailments affecting our vital organs will become more critical.

The social implications of old age are also daunting. Older people require more attention from their families. Often times the elderly move in with their children and dramatically impact the social order of their family units. The cost of health care, food and shelter are not insignificant items for many people, and they will become increasingly more burdensome.

It’s expected that many ageing adults will want to work longer to support themselves. This may result in a shortage of employment opportunities for younger, especially considering the automation of industry. Is reaching 65 a reasonable time to retire? If you expect to live to 90 or older, would you be happy with the prospect of sitting at home watching TV for 25 more years?

There are serious financial considerations as well. Many older people plan for a 10 to 15 year retirement. If their lives in retirement increase to more than 15 years, how will they be able to support themselves?

And finally the life styles of 80, 90 and 100 year old people must be considered. Do you really want to have an extended life without having things to keep you busy, like work, meeting with other people your age, hampered by decreased mental capacity, without vision to read the newspapers or to even watch TV? Individuals and society must define acceptable conditions for extended survival in general. The definition is certainly not vegetating in an old folks home. Quality time with family is always a high priority. But this sometimes puts undo pressure on other family members.

The ability to have, or not have, a good life style could make euthanasia a more desirable alternative. The social, ethic and moral ramifications of ending people’s lives in large numbers is an important issue that will get much more attention as time passes by politicians, religious people and ethicists.

In the future education requirements may change as well. We are currently being trained to work for 30 or 40 years in a job. Will we need new training to work another 20 years in a role that is compatible with physical and mental capability? Training of retirees could well become a very significant political issue.

Our entitlement systems will come under increasingly more stress as well. If we retire at 75, 80 or even 85, should we receive support from the government beginning at 60-65? This is a prime reason for current fiscal problems at the federal and state levels in America (people are living longer than expected). It’s a contentious subject that needs to be addressed as we live and work longer. It’s unrealistic to expect government to support us for more than 20 years after retirement.

Another important concept discussed during the CNN broadcast was how younger people could potentially link up with retirees to help them with creative projects. Learning from the mistakes of the past is an important part of progress moving forward.

Here are some facts and predictions for living until 100:

 

  • Number of US centenarians in 1990- 37,306 (0.0150% of total population)
  • In 2010 53,364 (0.173%)
  • Odds of living to 100 if you are 65 today- men 3%, women 5.8%, either member 8.7%.
  • There are about 500 thousand centenarians in the world. The number is expected to increase to 3.7 million by 2050.