Aging. It has a bum rap. It's a matter of perspective. When you're twelve, you can't wait to be thirteen. When you're eighty-nine, ninety isn't so exciting except as a triumph of reaching the milestone still above ground.
The reality is aging is not a milestone or number. Aging is loss. Loss of mobility. Loss of freedom. Loss of friends and family. Loss of spontaneity. All of those can happen at any age. None of them are a process of choice.
My dad is eighty-nine. He's far more mobile than I am. He eats pretty much whatever he wants. If he decides to walk down to the end of the little road he lives on, then he does. If he takes a notion to go to Walmart and browse, he and my stepmother, Mary Lou do that.
I, on the other hand, have a greatly restricted choice of things to eat--most of them not necessarily what I want to eat--and walking out to the car is a big deal for me. Walmart? Pretty much like hiking the Sahara. A doctor's visit can take two or three hours to get ready for, and that's before I even leave the house. Then there's the trip, the search for parking spot, and the inevitable wait in a waiting room of folks who are coughing, sneezing, and in general breathing on me. I have immunity issues so that entire scene is scary.
Ahhh. At last my name is called. I hobble to the room so the doc and I can confer about my general health. He tells me I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in. I agree. We part ways until next time and I go home...where I rest up from my marathon while I contemplate the idea of a nap.
That's the difference, you see. For me and a bunch of other folks out there, just the idea of leaving our home is a major deal. Medication schedules have to be worked out. Meal schedules have to be shifted. Travel time, shower and dressing time, parking, waiting, all have to be figured out. It's stressful. That's the reality.
I remember a time when I climbed a mountain every weekend. Alone and independent. I cherish those memories because that's in the past. Aging is about facing those memories and choosing to be happy you have them instead of bitter because they are no longer possible.
Depression is a big problem in the aging population because many can't face the loss, the pain, the sheer aggravation of having to plan every nit-picky little moment. I confess there are days I would like to just pull the covers over my head and shut the world out. But I don't, not because I'm so great, but because of all those nit-picky things I have to deal with. Medications, glucose testing, meals, blah, blah, blah.
Now I live with an electronic window on the world. Every day I am thankful for that blessing. In the past 'shut-ins' didn't have the privilege of sharing in the outside world unless someone showed up to physically visit them. Oh, I know technology can be stressful if we allow it to take over, but you know...it has an off switch. When I find it annoying, I turn it off. Boom!
I 'talk' to people who stress out over robo-calls and such. I don't answer. That's what caller ID is for. Really? Why do we think anyone has the right to annoy us just because we own a phone? It's a tool, like any other, to keep us connected when we want to be connected.
I have a lot of friends. Some I've never met in person and never will. That's okay. I enjoy visiting with them, sharing experiences and memories. Where else can you have a world-wide discussion about your favorite book? Or reach out for advice about almost any subject you can think of? And sometimes, just sometimes, reaching out to talk to someone is the most important thing you can do, especially on those days when aging becomes an overwhelming fact of life.
Know someone who is struggling? Treat them gently. Life is hard. Don't brush them off or offer them advice. Just let them know you're there. You're thinking of them. Share a good memory. Tell them they're important in your life. And please, please, please don't wait until they're dead to tell them what their friendship has meant to you. Then it's too late.