The fear of getting old


I hadn’t heard from my friend in awhile and I sensed that something was amiss.   We talked of the usual mundane things that make up our lives, the people we both know, the weather, pets, children and finally health.     She told me reluctantly that the doctor has recently told her that she will lose her vision within the next three years.     So, needless to say, she is very frightened.     How does it feel to be seventy six years old, fiercely independent, a lifelong introvert and now alone?   She has  no children, and no close relatives who are able to help on a frequent basis. 

We get up every day and thank God we can still put our feet on the floor, can still turn the lid on the medicine bottle and hopefully can see well enough with glasses to know we are taking the right medication.    To only hear a small percentage of what is being said during any conversation is now the norm and even though you sometimes feel frustrated and like crying because you don’t know what is going on around you, you hang in there for civility sake.    How is it possible to describe the fear of going into an assisted living or nursing home and having noone around with whom you have an intimate relationship.   The loneliness is indescribable.

I can safely say that most of my friends who are now in their seventies and eighties have no fear of dying.   They do, however, have dread and fear of being totally helpless and dependent on others.   Of not having the privacy that comes with being able to care for yourself.   To get up in the middle of the night and have a bowl of ice cream or a piece of candy, to take a walk without telling someone where you are going, to window shop.    These are the freedoms we fear losing.    So, when occasionally you see an elderly person weeping perhaps you will understand.   It is not that he or she weeping for the past but rather the pure frustration of not being able to be an autonomous human being.  

Yes, as Tolstoy stated “Age is the Biggest Surprise”

Peggy 

  

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2 Comments

  1. I read your blog on the vicissitudes of aging. In old age there must be something more than whining and sympathizing with it. I would certainly prefer to read something less empathetic and more positive. Seeing less fear on the writer's part would also be good. People are frightened enough already, without your capitulation. I found it a real bummer! Like having dirt dumped on a segment of the population that feels itself predictably sliding into a deep hole! Reach into your Buddhist teachings; there must be plenty there to send hope or at least some positive way of looking at a \”bad\” thing! Which may, after all, be \”good.\”

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  2. read the response to the blog and it struck a nerve. When I was married to ———-his family and a few of his friends said I was \”negative.\” One was particularly put off by what she perceived as my \”negativity\” to the point of no longer wanting to socialize with me. These are all people who are either involved in or followers of what I suppose is best called \”new age pop psych.\” I remember well one conversation with some of these folks in which I said that all this \”being positive\” really annoyed me, in particular when it's applied to disease/ailments. The implication seems to be that you weren't \”positive\” enough. That's why you have cancer, etc. And that seems to be the explanation too if you don't survive cancer or whatever. You just weren't \”positive,\” upbeat, hopeful – whatever – enough. And I say bullshit! So there! That's blaming the victim! Of course I was roundly called out for THAT bit!So . . . prior to reading Peggy's blog and that response, I had already been very concerned about all of this \”positive\” stuff. I don't mean to imply that hope isn't important, that doing your best to take care of yourself, which may well include trying to keep your spirits up and so forth isn't important. It is. But it seems to me that this \”positive\” stuff has been taken to extremes and I think it's harmful. Well now I find so do some other people – like Barbara Ehrenreich. Her new book, which I haven't yet read but just bought, is Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America. One blurb on the cover says this: \” . . . Ehrenreich exposes the downside of positive thinking: personal self-blame and national denial.\” So she's talking about the personal aspects (like her own cancer and feeling that she was in essence being told she had to be \”positive\” in order not to die from it) and the economic and political aspects. Christopher Hitchens' blurb says \”Unless you keep on saying that you believe in fairies, Tinker Bell will check out, and what's more, her sad demise will be your fault! Barbara Ehrenreich scores again for the independent-minded in resisting this drool and all those who wallow in it.\”

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