Aging and its tradeoffs

March 1, 2017

aging-realitiesThe world of senior citizens –65 and over– is a strange thing to behold, now that I’m a member of that tribe.  Aging ain’t for the faint of heart and one of the most puzzling things I’ve seen is how denial plays into it. I think it’s an artifact of our Boomer generation, too; the seniors I’ve known before I joined the tribe weren’t anything like this.

So let me begin:

By our senior years, it’s not unusual to have certain fairly serious but not necessarily fatal conditions. Some are lifestyle related, some are genetic and some have no identifiable cause. But many require certain changes in behavior: exercise, diet, medication.

It’s always a surprise when I see someone in total denial of their condition, doing everything they can that’s counter to doctors’ orders and avoiding the thought that their behavior might have serious or even fatal results. They want to do what they want to do, regardless of consequences. Or rather, they won’t address the consequences, not in thought and not in deed.

They Do. Not. Want. To. Hear. About. It.

I am FLOORED when I see this and I’ve seen it in more than one friend.

There’s also the idea that if we capitulate to one “health aid” it means a downward spiral into becoming an invalid. Rather than use a doctor-recommended walker, some insist on walking unaided, risking a fall that could take their life. In fact, that happened to someone I loved: they died after an unassisted walk and a fall.

Rather than use supplemental oxygen to combat lung disease, another person I know stayed awake night after night, unable to breathe. Uncomfortable. Risking a fatal bronchial spasm. When I suggested oxygen might improve quality of life, their spouse responded, “Once you start with that it’s all downhill.”

Well, here’s the thing. It’s all downhill, anyway, and the question is “do you want to be comfortable on the ride or do you want to suffer?”

Actually, the question is more stark for some and it’s one I’ve actually asked a friend:

“Would you rather do X or would you rather die?”

I met a guy who has always been uber-active and still is, well into his 80s. Tennis. Golf. Sailing. More energy than the famous bunny.  But his wife? Stricken with a debilitating condition that seriously impacts her daily life. Not too long ago he told me about his wife’s health problems and the assistance he had to provide. I could hear in his voice his struggle to accept the realities of her aging, even though he, himself, was still hale and hearty. I’d witnessed his loving assistance to his wife, myself. And yet, it was a bit of a struggle for him, even as he told me, “We must adapt to the things that happen.”

There are clear tradeoffs involved as we age. We can either use common sense and try to prevent serious problems from cropping up earlier than they need to or we can be willing to risk disability or even early death.

When shit happens, we can take action to have as good a quality of life as possible as we age or we can flame out early because we won’t accept that we are older now and limitations apply.

Quality of life is everything, I see now. We are no longer 20, 45 or even 60. We are seniors.

And while I can’t change some of the decisions I made when I was young and stupid,

I can certainly learn to adapt to the now and the future for both me and my husband, as my active octogenarian friend has had to.

The trade-offs of aging are as simple as my question: Would you rather (fill in the blank–call a doctor, use a walker, use supplemental oyxgen) or die? Your choice.”

Aging gracefully is now more than a buzz word to me. I see it and its opposite in action among my social circle.

There are lessons and I am learning them.














41 comments on “Aging and its tradeoffs
  1. Carla says:

    As always I love your musings. What resonates most with me in my “now” is how you say we need to ADAPT TO THE NOW.
    So perfectly put.

  2. Shari Broder says:

    So much of living a happy life has to do with adjusting our thinking so we don’t let things that we can’t change make us miserable. We can always change our thinking. I agree about people who avoid dealing with their health conditions. While I try not to be judgmental, that is so stupid and short-sighted! And then there are older folks who only talk about everyone’s health issues. Probably the most boring conversations ever. I swear I won’t do that! (But I’m ONLY 61)

  3. Debbie D. says:

    This common sense kick-in-the-ass is just what I needed! Although I’m “only” 62, there have been some changes to my health that I’m having trouble accepting, like gastric issues and worsening arthritis. Time to take matters in hand and make a few adjustments. Thank you, Carol.

  4. This is such a great post! I am currently having this issue with some of my family members avoiding their health conditions!

  5. Marian says:

    Health is everything as we age. Quality of life is maintained by good health.

    At 56, I am beginning to experience minor health issues like early arthritis and skin conditions like eczema. It’s a little frightening for me. Thus the rush to explore and implement preventative maintenance measures.

    Lots to think about, that’s for sure. Thanks for the post.

  6. Vanessa says:

    As my grandparents have aged, they have had their share of health issues, some serious, some that they needed to adapt their lifestyle. They adapted their lifestyle, but the biggest thing is that my Grandpa does not want to give up his house and independent living. I think that’s another big issue senior citizens have is admitting when living on their own, is too difficult for their health!

  7. At 55 I have constant, painful headaches due to bulging cervical discs and constricted muscles. I’m too young for this, and I’m doing everything I can to find a way to relieve my pain and discomfort, though it isn’t easy. I have to say sometimes I just feel like giving in, but I don’t.

  8. This is pretty sad to me. My dad is turning 70 this year. He is still very active and travels often, but he is aging and I have tried to get him to take better care of himself and maybe lay off the beer anf fried food but he doesn’t want to hear it.

  9. robin masshole mommy says:

    I think I am going to be one of those seniors. I refuse to see doctors unless it’s a last resort.

  10. Diane says:

    Such important–and pertinent–thoughts, Carol!
    My dad is my example. Diagnosed with a heart condition at the ripe old age of 39, his doctor told him he’d never live to see fifty.
    But he was so exact in doing everything his physicians said. Diet. Exercise. Rest. Hydration. He lived till he was 90. 90!
    He had to adapt. But he never faltered. My last pictures of him will always be him tooling around with his little walker, doing his required laps through the hallways at the senior’s home where he lived.

  11. You really put things in perspective and I should know better too. I’m 48 and diabetic but still eat things I shouldn’t be eating and I don’t exercise nearly enough. I’m not overweight by any means, probably just the opposite which I’m sure reinforces my bad behavior. No doubt, I need to make some changes.

  12. Barbara says:

    As I sit here barking like a seal with bronchitis I have to say, aging makes everything a little bit more difficult. I’ve had bronchitis before and I’ve had pneumonia twice but, everything is harder with every new year. But, considering the alternative, I’ll deal with it.

  13. Hi Carol:
    I like your statement: It’s all downhill, anyway, and the question is “do you want to be comfortable on the ride or do you want to suffer?”But I think it is most important, as a psychologist specialized in aging issues, to consider each person’s attitude toward life and death. Many, as documented by the over 500,000 deaths of despair in our age group, see no reason to drag out the inevitable, and I respect their choices.Facing death yourself, as we all must eventually, changes everything! Also, please keep in mind the costs of certain therapies. I just rented an 02 concentrator and it costs $150/month and is NOT COVERED BY MY INSURANCE. That is quite a large hit on our monthly budget!

  14. hillsmom says:

    Ok Carol, wait 10 years, then you can say, IMO, with impunity, that it’s all downhill. Still, better to be over the hill than under it. I believe it was Bette Davis who said, “Growing old ain’t for sissies”. Hang in there because Spring will be here sooner or later. =^..^=

  15. Katriza says:

    What a thought provoking post! I’m still young but I’m starting to feel the affects of aging especially after having kids. And I too remember the stupid unhealthy things I did when I was younger. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Laura says:

    This is so interesting. A fun and unique perspective to aging and those around us who are aging as well.

  17. This is a good one, Carol.

  18. Krysten says:

    This is something to really think about. I am afraid I will be one of the people who says, “It’s all downhill,” when asked if I am going to use something to help me feel better and more comfortable. I think we get into the thought that we don’t want to be old, so we try to make ourselves not look old.

  19. Elizabeth O. says:

    It’s all about adapting, your friend is right. I think it’s really important to follow your doctor though no matter how in denial you are about your condition or age.

  20. Erica Schwarz says:

    So, I turn 45 in a couple weeks. Oyyyy. That’s a big one. Not as big as 50 of course, but I feel things changing almost daily now. We have to adapt and be smart, but live and let live at the same time. Great post! I enjoyed reading.

  21. Sondra Barker says:

    This is a great blog post! I’ve never actually looked at things through this perspective, but will definitely keep things in mind such as taking care of my health and staying fit and active.

  22. Donna says:

    as the wife of someone described perfectly here I can add my voice to the choir with a resounding Amen. Acceptance of limitations is hard, but so necessary to finish one more day

  23. I, too had a loved one DIE, because she fell not using her walker. Sigh. Hope I can remember, “Vanity thy name is stupid.” Ha!

  24. stacey says:

    Not yet into the senior category at 51, I can see changes in my body. My skin isn’t as elastic as it was, but no wrinkles or conditions other than my asthma returning. We have to get people in the habit of maintenance so when we get to this age we know whats wrong and aren’t surprised.

  25. GiGi Eats says:

    While I truly adore life and want to stay alive as long as I possibly can, if I am in EXTREME PAIN where I am unable to get up, eat and drink…. Then I am probably not going to want to live any longer.

  26. Samantha says:

    perfectly said.

  27. I like where you are going with this post. Perhaps more of us should heed your advice. My parents lived pretty recklessly when they were younger. My dad died of a heart attack at just 45 years old and my mom passed away from cancer, brought on by years of smoking, and she was only 61. Yeah, it pays to make good decisions when you are younger. I certainly hope that I have done so. I am hoping to at least out live my father. I am currently 41, so we’ll see…

  28. Kat says:

    It’s a great article and I can’t believe you are “a member of that tribe” now;) Well, we often make our big decisions when we are young and stupid. But to be honest, I think it’s never too late to change our habits and lifestyle to make life better and more healthy.

  29. Thi says:

    Love this post ! That’s a great question to ponder about… I think I would rather use health aids to live comfortably without having to rely on them per se. As if, I would rather die if I absolutely needed something to help keep me alive, but if it’s there to ease my aging process then sure.

  30. Age is just a number. Its the young heart that matters.

  31. Karlyn Cruz says:

    Love this post so much I enjoyed reading this! Will also spread this to my friends!

  32. A good reminder! I think it’s wise to listening to doctor’s advise. I not there yet but I would like to age with style. Meaning do whatever necessary to have a comfortable ride up or down. My parents are aging and I love that they’re exercising and keep themselves healthy.

  33. I think it’s important to take care of ourselves, stay active and continue to change and adapt as we get older.

  34. Hi Carol! I just popped over to catch up and saw this post. Yes, strange isn’t it that some people are just willing to give up and/or gamble with their health. Unfortunately I saw my mom slowly wither away mentally and then physically and I vowed not to go out the same way. Maybe they haven’t witnessed someone close doing that….but even then I wonder if it would make a difference? ~Kathy

  35. I can imagine that it must be hard to elderly people to accept their age and condition. Like in general acceptance is hard for people. It’s important to accept the current situation and make the best of it. The grass is not always greener on the other side. And for the younger ones it is important to live life to the fullest so that you have no regrets later on.

  36. KATJA says:

    For reals. We’ve just had a serious health scare in the and it’s amazing how far they’re willing to go to avoid facing it.
    Katja xxx

  37. Julie says:

    My dad will be 64 years old this month. I tell him over and over about what he should eat and drink more water. But honestly, it’s exhausting continuing telling someone the same thing over and over. I’m convinced he’s just set in his ways. The only way he’ll eat healthy is if me or my husband cook.

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