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Joys and Challenges of Aging

 

The best part of aging is the freedom it brings.  I remember when my 95-year-old great aunt told me that she had never filed an income tax because she thought they weren’t interested in church organists like her.  She may have been right but I drew comfort from the reflection that the authorities were unlikely to imprison a 95-year-old and that, if they did, she would enjoy free long term care for the rest of her days.  There are benefits to age.

There are also challenges and it’s the challenges that make us resist the thought of growing old or the perception of being seen to act old.  With advancing age comes acceptance of the certainty of one’s mortality.  That’s a challenge.  Some turn to religion and a belief that death will be less than final.  Others simply seek to make the most of their remaining years. 

Still, the stark reality is that we don’t know when our active lives may face a sudden turning.  We may die suddenly and unexpectedly; many people think that can be a blessing.  We may also be stricken with equal suddenness and with a requirement that we adapt.  That’s the more common challenge.  And then there are those who become disoriented and confused and who may not even know that they’ve been stricken.  That, too, is common.

To the right we discuss particular challenges.  Other webpages are dedicated specifically to particular challenges.  Under this Aging heading we also explore protective measures that people can take to prepare for these contingencies and to spare their families and others from the burdens of having to take on our frailty or our decline.  Most of us want our children and other progeny to thrive and not to have to forego their lives because we failed to anticipate the needs of our lives.

 

The Certainty of Loss and the Course of Responsibility

A common theme among those who are aging is the frequency of loss.  Loss can be obvious, as when a spouse of more than sixty years dies suddenly leaving the survivor bereft and feeling that life no longer has meaning.  Loss can also be less obvious, as when a person discovers that they can no longer walk up a short hill without becoming breathless. 

We know that decline starts early in adults.  40 year olds understand that they can no longer tax their bodies as they could at age 23.  But with each gathering decade the drumbeat of loss intensifies and becomes more frenzied.  It’s important to mourn the loss even as we adapt to the future. 

For there always is a future.  We never know when or if the next moment, even in the life of a centenarian, may be the moment when our example so influences a young person that the world is changed and humankind is the better for our having lived.

Geriatrician Leslie Kernisan, MD, MPH, lists 26 Recommended Preventive Health Services for Older Adults: the Healthy Aging Checklist on her website which you can access by clicking on this paragraph.

 Cognition

Bereavement

Chronic Illness

Frailty

Options to Anticpate the Contingencies of Aging

     

 

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