Only Child looks at growing old

Only Child with her parents in "younger" times

One of my friends recently said, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.” She’s right. I’m seeing and hearing about so many older adults having miserable lives because of health problems. Whether we like it or not I suppose that is somewhat the norm for the 90 plus crowd. I say “I suppose” because one of my uncles died in his late 90s and except for a flu bout and having to slow down some, he was in good health almost until his death. He wasn’t a blood relative; unfortunately that side of my family haven’t lived that long or those that made it past 90 were in poor health.

But what is scaring me is hearing about younger older adults (those 60 to 75) who are having health problems and because of them their lives aren’t pleasant. A colleague’s sister is in a nursing home – she is 67. My brother-in-law had a stroke in his early 70s;  he lived for a few years after that – immobile and unable to speak. Then there are my parents – my father who had cancer from age 59 to his death at age 66 and my mother. She died suddenly of a brain aneurysm brought on by falls due to her arthritis. And her arthritis cost her her job. I write about this in part in my memoir.

Rheumatoid arthritis battered her feet first with swelling, aching and distortion. When the arthritis spread to her hands, her boss switched her from typing to proofreading. And another disease with a hard-to-remember and an even harder-to-spell name also invaded her body. Scleroderma…

She is on a mini-leave of absence, when one day I walk into the house and find two strange men with her in the living room. They’re both sitting on the chesterfield, one on either side of its designed split. Mom is in the pink chair by the bookcase as if the World Books standing guard behind can lift her up beyond the swollen foot propped on a footstool. The conversation stops and the two men stare at me with blank smiles on their faces…

The men say, “Hello,” and nod, and then one continues the conversation.

“Julia,” he says. “I know you are a valuable employee but we need to know if you are coming back to work.”

“I don’t like to say it, but I have to,” the other man says. “It might be better if you retired now.”

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, Copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

Mom lasted a few more years. She was 63 when she died.

On a less personal level, check out Statistics Canada Do a search for “Seniors Health Statistics” and you will find statistics on the consequences of falls, chronic conditions of seniors living in the community, and many more. Scary stuff.

So, as I approach my parents’ ages of dying, I become more reflective but also more practical. That and the big eye scare in December has prompted me into estate-planning mode. I am also on yet another big sort-and-purge around the house. You have to plan for these things.

However, it’s not all  doom and gloom. I’m continuing my writing, editing and writing instructing  – not only are they my livelihood, but they are my passion. So are gardening and reading. I’ve escalated what I do for my health. Beyond the nutrition and diet, I’ve started walking 30 minutes daily unless snowstorms interfere – then it’s shovelling the white **** (begins with “c”). And tonight I’m starting a weekly Yoga class  and getting a 10-minute walk each way – if this incoming snowstorm hasn’t hit full blast by then. I may shake my shovel at the sky before I dig in ( two or three sessions) to the 30 centimetres or so expected by late tomorrow.

How are the rest of you doing with getting older?



Only Child Writes

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Filed under Death and Dying, Health, Health Seniors, Only child memoir, Pain, Seniors

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