Popular Posts

Targeted Clicks

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Opinion: Growing old is no fun

I’ve gone from getting older to being old; and it’s not what I expected.
I am now 85 years old (it happened when I wasn’t looking), and I speak for myself and many of my contemporaries. Old age and retirement are not turning out as we expected.

We all know that this generation lives longer than any previous one, much longer, and there are many more of us. But some of us feel we have been deceived, or have deceived ourselves, because growing old comes with a huge diminution of strength, and we didn’t fully realize that.
And, although our society is kind to us old folks, it does not treat us with the respect some societies do.

When we worked and looked forward to retirement, we usually imagined it to be similar to our earlier life, but with the time (and strength) to indulge in hobbies and interests for which we had no time earlier. We now realize that this dream is not true. Everything we do now is much slower and far too much of our time is spent at the doctor’s office — and I speak as a relatively healthy woman.

Many now need help with such simple tasks as cutting their toenails. Shopping and cooking, visiting family doctors, heart doctors, the dentist ,dermatologists, arthritis doctors, eye doctors, the physiotherapist or seniors’ exercise class — these pursuits, just to keep us functioning and mobile — occupy far too much of our time.Not to mention those who have loss of hearing, eye problems, digestive upsets, chemo treatments, or who are recovering from, or waiting for, a new hip.

The brokerage firm Raymond James is running a commercial on TV showing a lady of 187 — yes, that’s right, 187 — hang-gliding, cycling and playing vigorous tennis. They also state that she is able to carry on these activities financially, because of judiciously having invested with their firm.What a crock of nonsense.

Most people I know, with the exception of the very rich, are concerned that their money won’t last as long as they do. We had all hoped to leave something to our children and grandchildren, maybe also to our favourite charities, but that dream has been supplanted with the hope that our money just lasts long enough to look after us.

Getting old is expensive, and I for one, consider it a selfish expense.I look healthy, and I thank God that I can do what I do each day, with limitations. But those limitations are meaningful. I take courses, I play bridge, I read a lot. And I manage my investments by myself; but all this with a severely diminished capacity. Often, we need to rest or nap during the day. Although some in my age group still do charitable work, my stamina does not allow it, and I regret that. Many of my friends live with pain, and almost all of us have some degree of impairment. Many old people are dependent on painkillers or sleeping pills. Too many of our friends die each year, and we regularly go to funerals or visit the sick. We have entered a new way of thinking, of behaving, and of looking at the world.

My point is that old age is not an easy ride, and retirement is not the Holy Grail that our culture and our expectations have painted it to be.Most of us do not fear death, and only wish for it to be rather quick and certainly painless. The growth of palliative care is something for which we are grateful. And this new law in Quebec allowing assisted death does not frighten us. We are grateful that we do not suffer from dementia, as some of our contemporaries do.

On the plus side, we no longer are “finding ourselves” and our place in the world.Those of us who live alone, especially with children no longer here in Montreal, have come to terms with that fact. Partners have died, siblings have died, old friends have died. We have moved away from loneliness and partially enjoy the freedom of answering to no one. But at the same time, we miss the age-old concept of children and grandchildren being a close part of our daily lives.

Friends and contemporaries have replaced family to a large extent, and we need one another. Thanks to the Internet and Skype, we can keep in touch with our families so much more than previous generations could, but the lack of daily-ness of nearby family means we always strive to sound cheerful and they do not know the extent of our medical conditions and cannot help us in daily tasks.I speak as a relatively lucky 85-year-old, but I repeat that old age and retirement bring with them many unexpected limitations.
I’m mostly happy and I think I’m still good company, but we have discovered that those of us who blossom into a new career as Grandma Moses, or who succeed in writing that book they have in them, are very rare indeed.

And did we really get wiser with age? I would like to think so, but is the younger generation listening, or do they have to make their own mistakes, as I did mine?