Fear and Loathing

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Am I afraid of getting old?  Hell yes! You might ask why it is, then, that I spend time working with the elderly and their caregivers and focusing on aging by writing many articles that deal with aging.    I work with the elderly because I want to try and change the dire landscape that exists today for the elderly.  What might that landscape be?  One where the “old” person is left to vegetate in a corner, where derogatory comments are made about getting old, where services are constantly being cut and tax monies are used for the young, in spite of the fact that the young make up a smaller percentage than the ever-growing older population.

As boomers, we really do not want to focus on the fact that we are aging, that we are moving into a period in our lives when we will be more vulnerable and needing to depend on others for our care (if death does not find us before then).  We were the generation that grew up with the Peter Pan song: “I won’t grow up.”  We could just as well sing it, “I won’t grow old.”  We do not want to confront our aging process and so we don’t.  By not acknowledging it, we believe it will go away.  We insist that by acknowledging it, we will somehow help it, affirm it in its manifestation.

Two years ago, I had a friend who truly believed that aging was an attitude.  This past year, she is noting changes in her capabilities and attributing it to age.  Yes, folks, it does happen.  The hardware does start to wear down, break, fall apart.

The reason I am afraid of getting old in this society is that we are not humane towards our elderly.  This might have something to do with the fact that we live in a mobile, youth oriented society that does not respect its elderly population.  Also, I happen to fit into the statistic of being a single, certain-aged female with no children or grandchildren.  I have to admit that the idea of finding myself in a nursing home being taken care of or ignored by poorly paid staff scares me.

We live in times where the technological developments of hospitals and the advancements in medication allow us to live longer.  But what has been overlooked is the quality of life our living longer affords us.  Is it really a great thing to live to be 90 years old but have no mind to speak of?  Or have only the choice of living in a potential hell hole wherein one lives a semi-comatose existence in some dark hallway by being fed psychotropic drugs to keep us quiet?

I would rather depart from this life in my ’70′s, when I still have some life in me than be kept alive with absolutely no life to speak of.  (A friend of mine who is in her ’70′s has told me that when I reach that age, I will probably have a different outlook.  I don’t doubt her wisdom on the matter, but I am also a firm believer that life should be lived fully and since we are all going to go at some point…..what is it the comedians say, “Leave them laughing”)  I also do not doubt that I will probably have what I call a “clutch” to life as I confront the fact that I will be departing it.  Ironically, part of what sustains the medical establishment’s focus on keeping individuals alive is something that I believe is a natural part of dying: the clutch to life.

Now maybe this topic seems morbid to those of you reading it, but the fact of the matter is, if we do not confront our aging process and our eventual demise, we will do nothing to change what happens to us as we age and we might find ourselves far outliving our usefulness in a state that we would never wish on anyone let alone ourselves.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013

 

 

What is this Website All About?

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Recently, a friend who is a social media guru, told me that my site did not effectively communicate what my message was.

Being a person who is aging in a society wherein aging is looked at in negative terms,  I decided to begin a website that explored all those aspects of life/society that affect the aging person, positively and negatively.  I am interested in exploring a more positive outlook towards aging.  Baby Boomers make up a large percentage of the population.  We should be working together to pro-actively create twilight years more to our making and liking, not follow, like sheep, society’s definition of what aging is all about.

Where does the story begin?  In some societies, the elderly are venerated.  In other societies, they are taken care of.  In our society, unbelievable amounts of energy and money are expended to avoid the aging process and to avoid death.

The real problem with all of this is that gerontology is looked on as dealing with “old” people and our concept of “old” is decrepit , demented, incontinent. Until we reach “old” (at least in our society) no one wants to deal with “old” and so the image of “old” continues to be perpetuated in the above fashion.

People need to recognize that those of us who don’t age, die. In other words, unless something else takes us away, we are all going to age. Unless those of us who are aging now (but are denying that fact, other than to laugh about “senior moments” or complain about the “new aches and pains,”) take responsibility for this fact, buy into it and prepare for it, we will not have the infrastructure in place to deal with it properly (which is where we are today in our society). Time for a paradigm shift. Unless the baby boomers (46-66) create that paradigm shift, we will have quite a mess on our hands.

Why do I say that we will have a mess on our hands?  In sheer numbers, the baby boomers outnumber those following them.  Studies show that younger folk do not seem to be attracted to service oriented jobs.  The traditional definition of family has been expanded to several parents/siblings/grandparents by virtue of high number of divorces and re-marriages, which will also have an impact on care-giving.  Not only that, but we, beginning with our parents, are the highest users of pharmaceutical drugs, all of which have some side effect which causes some other problem which necessitates taking more pharmaceutical drugs.

Now all of this is glorious news for the health care industry (note the word industry — their term, not mine).  What better scenario for profits than having an individual with a chronic illness who is totally dependent on the health care system?  And better yet, particularly for the insurance companies [-- one part of the triage that makes up the health care industry, the other two being pharmaceuticals and hospitals/doctors --]  is a person who is on medicare and has all these chronic problems because then 80% of the cost for their care is covered by Medicare.

This is a scenario that I find dismaying and will speak out against again and again.  We should never have allowed a service industry to become a profit making industry.  When we did, health no longer became the focus — profits did.  Making money did.  And when that happened, individuals’ health became compromised by the very system that claims to be proponents for health.

So in a nutshell, this website will (mostly) focus on our aging process and those steps we can take to better prepare ourselves (boomers corner) and it will focus on the health care industry by presenting articles that demonstrate the need for a major overhaul of that industry in the hopes of recapturing its original intent: health. (Health Blog).

At least for now…..

I would appreciate any thoughts you may wish to share with regard to this.

© Yvonne Behrens  2012

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How Old Do You Think You Are?

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Do we see ourselves as younger?

 

The other day, I went to a beekeeping meeting, which was actually a picnic.  When we arrived, I was carrying a box with our addition to the potluck picnic and several other items (we are non-meat eaters so I bring our own veggie burgers and presently, my husband is on a special diet to help in his fight against cancer.  The diet includes NO sugars and NO dairy. So I bring the substitutes or variation sauces).

Back to the picnic:  There I was carrying a box and this young lady approached me and asked if she could help me carry the box.  I replied, “No thank you.  I am fine.”  She then insisted that she take the box from me.  I was wondering why she was making such a big deal about this when I realized that she was looking at me as a senior citizen (something I certainly was not feeling) and she was probably taught that you help older individuals with their packages.  Now I do have white hair and this may be what she focused on (Ah, yes, sweet as her offer was, it was probably influenced by an aspect of ageism – everyone who has white hair must be old!)

On the other hand, a study conducted in the U.K. showed that most people see themselves to be at least 10 years younger than their actual age.

This is true of the healthy aging individual,  and healthy I am. However, as soon as one starts to have debilitating physical problems or mental problems, one feels a lot older (ironically at that juncture, still probably not their age, but a whole lot older than their age.)

So, most probably, the young lady saw me for what I was (or maybe older) and I, fitting the profile of the British study, was proceeding as though I was ten years young