Aging Gracefully

Aging Gracefully

Marta has a voice student, age 80. She is a spunky, young-thinking person. She attributes some of her youthfulness to daily ingestion of sheep placenta. Marta asked her to try singing, for an exercise, like a little girl, daintily, not syrupy as is normal of older adults. Marta complimented the woman for not having a quavery voice.

Marta is delaying botox treatments. Numerous of her friends have succumbed. Even Marta is willing to do it at a certain stage. But a facelift, No! She has seen women whose face is perky by neck is wrinkly. Marta shakes her head at the thought, jiggling her presently tight cheeks. When I asked her what she thought of the recent full-face transplant in France. That wigged her out to a fine extent. But botox sounds o.k. We get inured to treatments as they become commonplace. The price for a facelift on some internet sites for doctors is $5,000. Breast enhancement is $3,000.

IGF, a growth factor, is a daily treatment for the elderly which makes muscles and skin young. It cost $1,000 per month until recently when the patent expired and the price dropped to $100 per month. This is a price many, perhaps most, older Americans can afford. I am wondering if I should recommend it to my parents. They could dance until they are 110 and have the skin of 30 year-olds.

Certain anti-aging measures will seem to me, and others, pathetic, ridiculous and ungraceful. People in their 90’s who wear bell-bottoms, dance disco, and have toupees or even genetically enhanced full hair are “trying to hard to appear young”, when we all know they should accept decline gracefully. My friend, Mike Jones, the chiropractor, has a patient that skis 15 runs in 3.5 hours and is 74. He is the youngest in his cadre of skiers. There is an aggressive 85 year-old. Both he and I think that is pretty neat. That is because we live in a culture that glorifies youth, not slowness and wisdom.

Openmindedness is admired in the old because it is an attribute of the young.We admire people who are willing to learn computers and cell phones and internet use. We admire the elderly that keep their skills updated. Marta said, “I’ve got to get into the 21st Century”, referring to learning how to use home recording software.

Excercising the body helps the elderly stay strong, healthy and resist bone breakage. It staves off diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimers, the things which kill and disable so many. So old people should exercise. But maybe at 100 they should worry not too much. They could exercise less. They don’t need to impress anyone with their strength or bodily beauty, at least not for seeking a mate. Maybe they just need to chill and accept slow degeneration. Maybe that is the graceful thing to do.

For most of us, the point at which we should accommodate decline, grasp it and quit fighting it will be long before age 100. Our present tendency is to admire people who fight for life until the very end. This admiration springs from the way we are enamored of the fighting spirit of young people. Maybe there is more wisdom in feeling the sap run out of us, in feeling our pains, in acknowledging that our day, our prime, is past.

This will not be easy. It will not be easy to refuse replacing a pacemaker battery, a trouble-free and inexpensive measure. On the other hand, refusing a heart transplant, expensive and painful and risky, will be easier. No wisdom is called for here. The easy, cheap enhancements and treatments that are presently multiplying will be the challenge.

An old man who refuses to update from rotary to touch tone, who can’t navigate the internet, who doesn’t do send email, seems like a dud, hopelessly un-modern. He will also become out-of-date. Sometime laziness holds the elderly back. Lack of need restrains others. Maybe though the technological slackers are the wise. They have to talk to people face-to-face, in homes, in the village square and meetings, not through digital snippets. They have to view scenery with their eyes, not through a wire.

A person will have an easier time refusing today’s DSL, as opposed to dial-up internet service, than they will have refusing tomorrow’s medical enhancements.. They will be driven by their own desire for continuation, and the chiding of their children, doctors, government counselors, and peers. But refusal may be wisdom. What appears to be obstinancy may be furtherance.

I heard an ad for Alleve today. It is for arthritis sufferers. It is cheap, safe and ubiquitous. We might expect 1 in 1,000 sufferers to refrain from its use. “Why tolerate any pain if a solution exists?”

What we usually mean when we say someone is aging gracefully is that that person is maintaining a sweet disposition, youthful characteristics, and that they are making an effort to adapt to modernity. Youthfulness is the definition, ironically.

Maybe a better definition is that that person acknowledges and accepts their decline. They know they are on the wane. They are reconciled to the inevitable, the slide into decrepitude. How will we know how to do it? Kurt Vonnegut and James Watson will call resistors Luddites. They will seem out-of-style, like someone wearing a mullet or a wedge hairstyle, or wearing a polyester leisure suit. But it may be the graceful way to age.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: