Growing Old

There is a saying that growing old beats the alternative but some might argue that in some cases, this is not true.
You can identify the young by what they consider old. When you were in your pre-teens, perhaps your idea of ‘old’ was someone who had reached the grand old age of 30 or even less. Children see life in their very narrow perspective, but as the years pass, so does their perception of their definition of old. I once had a cousin who was over 80 who said that he only considered anyone who had exceeded his years to be old, but he refused to lay claim to the title himself.
The life span in this country is nearly double what it was only a few decades ago and far greater than the birthdays in some third world countries today When the government initially set the retirement age for those receiving Social Security, they probably did not give too much thought that a great number of people would live well beyond that threshold thereby endangering its financial integrity. Today the average person can expect to retire – for now – at age 65 and still have nearly a decade of life or more left. But is such a long life what one might classify as living? Well, it depends.
Medical science has reached a level today that can through heroic measures keep a person from death’s door far beyond the days of ‘normal’ existence. Because of this advancement, there are life decisions that many older people make that clearly state their end of life wishes.
I have a friend who has reached well beyond the longevity of most of his siblings; he’s almost 90. His life has been full; he has had a responsible job, married with children and grandchildren and not bothered by the lack of resources. Surprisingly enough, even at this advanced age, his physical health that is his eyes, ears and other systems would place him, for his age, in the relatively good health category. But age has defeated him in other ways, his mind has betrayed him. He has joined the increasing ranks of those and their loved ones being overwhelmed by Alzheimer’s disease.
Long retired, he still feels compelled to “go to work” as soon as he gets up and to “lock up the business” when the night comes. There is no way one can reason with him. No one can convince him that those days are in the distant past. He is adamant and defiant and many times become agitated when family members offer convincing proof that his assumptions are wrong. In rare instances, the only solution is to give in to his perceptions no matter their improbability.
“Youth having passed, there is nothing to lose but memory. Cherishing the past without regret and viewing the future without misgivings, we wait, then, for the nightfall when one may rest and call it a life.” George E. MacDonald
Bill Lee
PO Box 128
Hamer, SC 29547

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