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Category Archives: Age
It has been a tough year. We’ve had shocking election results. We’ve had the re-emergence of Nazism, We’ve had the threat of nuclear war, we’ve had unprecedented natural disasters, and now we may witnessing our closest neighbor self-destruct.
Magazines, newspapers and books are rife with hateful articles, we don’t dare turn on the television news, and social media is exploding with angry posts.
We are suffering from insomnia like never before, therapists report a steep increase in new patients and we hear that millions are taking antidepressants.
In a few weeks, I’ll be lining up, along with about 35% of the Canadian population, to receive the flu shot. In doing so, I’ll be ignoring the bad press, the less than 50% prevention rate, and the physical discomfort to do this. Why? Because, as I grow older, I’m discovering that I can’t rely on my immune system to do the splendid job it did in the past to protect me from the millions of pathogens that come my way all fall and winter.
Up until 2 years ago, I never gave the flu a thought. Ominous suggestions that the ‘elderly’ were susceptible to illness and disease seemed at best, ageist, and at worst, insulting. I was in excellent health, I looked after myself—a weakened immune system couldn’t happen to me.
By now, if you are over 65, you might be experiencing subtle changes in your health as you age. You might find that you are taking longer to recover from a cold or flu, and you need to rest longer after you exercise or do a chore. You may notice other subtle changes, like patches of eczema on your skin, or ridges on your fingernails, or pervasive physical and mental fatigue. Normally, you shrug off these symptoms—you’re just grateful that you are not suffering from some drastic illness, and decide to leave well enough alone.
The first few days, after the death of your spouse, may be the most devastating and wrenching you will ever experience. Nothing that happens later in life, you are convinced, can ever hurt this much. If you are old, and have been with your spouse for many years, the void that is left when your spouse is no longer there, can overwhelm you. Your feelings can be unimaginably painful and raw, as expressed here:
“I weep no tears because my husband has died. I do weep tears for the lost years. I weep tears for the young family members deprived of the opportunity to truly know him.
I don’t know about you, but I would like to grow old in a place where I had control over my day, where my choices were honored, and where my needs were met, in the event that I couldn’t take care of myself. And, oh yes, I would also want to be valued and respected.
Now I’m not talking about my current situation—in which I’m growing older, as opposed to growing old. During the growing older part, my contemporaries and I are fully able to direct our lives and take care of our basic needs. But we are all aware that the situation may change when we are truly old.
In the waning days of this bitter presidential campaign, while candidates slog it out in a final mud bath of vitriol, let’s go back to how it all began—or at least how we think it all began.
Several attempts were made, during the early phase of the campaign, to identify the average supporters of Donald Trump; to focus on their similarities, and to discover why they attended his rallies in the thousands to listen to his enraged rhetoric.
Analysts had a field day examining the underlying conditions which may have spurred such a ground swell of social expression, a ‘movement’ as Trump slyly and accurately named it as early as last spring.
“In youth we learn, in age we understand”.
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach wrote these words when she was seventy-five years old. It’s my favourite explanation of wisdom. I’ve gone so far as to print it out on a little card and mount it above my desk, just as a reminder that wisdom, as a by-product of age, has value.
I need to be reminded about that these days, when attitudes about us, the older generation, is eroding, and our place in the world is being questioned.
In the past, when I’ve been frustrated or overwhelmed, it helped to read the quote, and have my spirits buoyed by the idea that, now that I’m older, I have the advantage of being wiser, too.
Late bloomers arrived late to the party. You can say they procrastinated, dawdled, straggled, lagged behind. Some of them didn’t know what they wanted to do. Some didn’t believe they could do anything. Some tried earlier and failed. Some didn’t try at all until they were old. People called them dilettantes, and laggards. Late Bloomers have many different explanations for why they didn’t succeed at their craft when they were young. But they have one thing in common—once they became older and decided to start, they didn’t stop. Once they realized what they could do, they were on fire.