Some Thoughts on Aging – Denial versus Acceptance versus Rejoicing


Those of you who have read some of my past articles are
aware that I wrote mostly about various aspects of primary care and our
dysfunctional healthcare delivery system overall. A few years ago I wrote a post
for KevinMD
on moving to a retirement community. Since then I became
interested in the actual process of aging and did some further posts for
KevinMD. Why do we age? Why do our various organs lose function over time when
does it start and how fast does it occur? Can we do anything about it; can we
slow it down? Why do complex chronic illnesses become more prevalent with
aging? Can we prevent those? What research is ongoing? And from there – would a
pill delay aging? What are the efforts to actually reverse aging, a search for
the Fountain of Youth? After a few years of research came “Longevity Decoded – The 7 Keys To Healthy Aging” which was
published in April, 2018 and is available on Amazon. This article and those to
follow are based on this journey of exploration.           Your comments will be most welcome.

**************************

We are all aging every day but mostly we ignore it, do not
recognize it or deny it. Then all of a sudden we look in the mirror and realize
that older age has found us. Even then each person deals with aging
differently. 

There is a parody by an unknown author of Dr
Seuss’ “
The Cat in the Hat” which takes a negative perspective on aging.
Perhaps “The Cat in the Hat” says much of what many people feel and
think.

But there are other perspectives, many much more positive.

After I told a friend about the
concept of what I was writing, he sent me the following: “About 25 years ago I
received a video about the Adirondack Park. When the park was established – in
the late 1800’s I believe – the New York state government drew a blue line
around the immense region. Individuals living inside the park were allowed to
stay, and pass their land onto heirs, but they could not sell their property to
others. Over the succeeding generations the land not passed on to heirs became
owned by the state. The video was about a gentleman in his 60’s who was one of
the last of his generation and focused on preserving what had been the
Adirondack way of life – realizing it was about to fade into history. In the
video as he talked he slowly unfolded a 6′ wooden ruler. He went on to indicate
that the 72 inches represented the average lifespan in years for many folks. He
then indicated his age on the ruler and made the point that while he hoped to live
beyond the end of the ruler he realized his time was short and he had limited
time to accomplish his goals.

“My
dad had recently passed away – at the age of 72 – and in his tools I found a
folding ruler. After seeing the video I picked up the ruler and unfolding it
became aware I was beyond the half way point. Over the years I have often
opened and looked at the ruler. I recall at 50 feeling that time was speeding
up. For some reason now that I’m in my 60’s the passage of time bothers me less
– but I am aware of the limited amount left. I am also focusing more on what
happens when, hopefully, I go beyond the end of the ruler.

“It
seemed to me your audience may benefit from an increased awareness of time and
what they can do to productively live their lives now with that goal of having
an enjoyable existence in the future.”

Good
advice. Here are some other bits of personal philosophy about aging and its
impact on us as individuals.

Ian
Brown in his book The Experiment
rebels at aging through his diary that he starts at age sixty. As recounted by Gerard
Helferich in a Wall Street Journal book
review
, “His journal is largely a protest against decline. His
hearing is fading, along with his memory. His knees ache. His arches have
fallen. His face sags, and a patch of hair over his forehead resembles ‘a
random stand of corn that somehow got planted away from the main field.’ He has
rosacea, age spots and a hemorrhoid. Though he and his friends still hike and
ski, it’s a case of ‘ever-older men doing daring things, to prove we’re still
daring, and therefore not older.’ Mostly Ian Brown regrets not taking more
risks… he is afraid that he hasn’t lived up to his promise… A friend reminds
him that we spend the first half of our lives wishing we looked like someone
else and the second half wishing we looked like our former selves.”

Willard
Spiegelman, on the other hand, in his early 70’s when he wrote Senior Moments may be, says  Helferich, “closer to the end than Mr. Brown, [but]
he doesn’t betray dread or regret but a gentle, teasing acceptance. ‘We come
into the world alone, with a cry…we exit alone, to confront the final eternal
silence. The fun, all the pleasure and adventure, lies in between.’ [The two
books] striking dissimilarities—in content and form but especially in attitude
and voice—derive from the authors’ varying views on life more than from their
relative ages or their divergent attitudes about the end of life. Whether we
are 60 or 70, or 80 or 90, how fiercely we rage against the coming of that good
night depends above all on how we have embraced the sum of our days.”

“The
Cat in the Hat” has a clearly negative perspective on advanced years and
certainly not all would agree. My friend with the 72-inch ruler is rather
philosophical while recognizing that time is indeed moving on.  Brown wants to deny and so does “daring”
adventures while Spiegelman is more accepting of what lies
ahead. 

The
perspective of an older person is related mostly to how he or she perceives
life and how he or she has lived their earlier years. It is with that
background of life and living that we come to terms – or not – with growing
older.



 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *