Getting Old

19 11 2009

Well, we all are, aren’t we? So why am I compelled to write about this now?

My grandfather was 94 yesterday.

He’s an absolutely fabulous old man and is still able to live in his own home,  supported by regular visits from his daughters, my aunt and Mum. He has smoked a pipe all of his adult life and despite an industrial accident suffered in his early 40’s that left him with a limp and prevented him taking regular, vigorous exercise, he keeps great health…excellent health in fact as he takes no medication.  He is becoming increasingly frail and worryingly forgetful. This doesn’t worry him, of course, but it is a concern for the rest of us.  For example, when he stayed with me a couple of months ago he told me at pretty much hourly intervals that he was getting a new TV ahead of the digital switchover. The new TV duly arrived and when I asked him a couple of days later whether he liked it he was adamant that he hadn’t got a new TV! However he can still do the maths puzzle on countdown much quicker than me! So what to do next? When to intervene? He isn’t going to get any less frail or forgetful. My friends uncle has dementia and is unable to care for himself but has sufficient clarity that he has decided to refuse food and water. What should be done? He is in hospital and clearly the NHS cannot allow him to die of hunger even though it appears he has decided he has lived long enough.

And my cousin, who I grew up in constant competition with as we were the same age and constantly compared to one another by our grandmother, was 50 yesterday. So I must be 50 soon. I don’t feel 50.  Not that there is a universally accepted definition of what 50 feels like, of course.  What I should say is that I don’t feel how I thought I would feel at 50 when I was looking ahead aged 30! I still feel the same in m head looking out as I have for the past 30 years. Standing outside and looking in through the mirror tells a different story. I look as I thought I would look when I was 50.

And I am a fan of Strictly Come Dancing. Yes, who would have thought it? I don’t think that Arlene Phillips was the best of the four judges and I guess that if the programme was in need of new faces, she was the obvious one to go, but the feeling that she was removed solely because of her age is a disturbing one.

And finally, there is the creeping certainty that there are more things that I can’t do now than can. For example, I will never win an olympic gold medal for the 100m. Now I know that this was never likely but had I trained hard, applied myself and actually entered a few races, who knows, it may have been possible. Now it is absolutely impossible.

We don’t deal with well with age and ageing. We don’t, on the whole, grow old gracefully. We don’t respect the elderly for the wisdom of their years. We fight to stay looking young. We spend millions on anti-ageing creams and hair colourants to hide the grey.

Maybe this love affair with youth is what makes it difficult to deal with growing old and with making good decisions on behalf of our elderly relatives.

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