The older I get the less I like about birthdays. My 69th birthday is right around the corner. Sixty-nine has always been my favorite number so I should really be excited about being 69 years old for a full year, but I’m not.
When we are kids, we got excited about birthday parties, presents and the new privileges that came with age. At 69, there are almost no presents. Presents are for kids. Parties were fun when we lived in Long Grove. Friends spent the day at our pool and the grill ran continuously. In North Carolina, the grill still provides scrumptious eats; but there is no pool and friends are 100s of miles away.
The privileges that came with age years ago are now going away. Yep, as a doctor, I witnessed the degradation that comes with the aging process. Now, I’m witnessing this as a patient. So far, I’ve been lucky. I’m still independent and able to drive safely. As my Parkinson’s worsens, my ability to remain independent is threatened. My hearing is going so I have hearing aids. My vision is going so I have glasses. My arthritis is worsening and my back sucks. Despite all of the losses, I still function relatively well. (There is one significant gain with age: weight!)
Unlike my father, I have dressing aids, including a dressing stick, stocking donner (assist putting on socks), and leg lifter strap. I have a handicapped ready house with rails in the shower and crapper. The one thing I need most, new effective medications, still doesn’t exist. I’m on the same medications my father was on 30 years ago.
The hardest loss to deal with is the loss of the ability to drive. I’m glad to announce that my driving skills are still excellent (I’m much more cautious). My years practicing medicine taught me how to evaluate a patient’s ability to drive and how to decide when it was time to take away a person’s right to drive. It also taught me how emotionally devastating it is to lose your license.
When it comes to taking away the car keys, men are by far the worst. Patients, who I cared for over 25 years, would curse me and transfer their care to another doc. These same patients would fight with their wives and family, insisting that they were good drivers despite the fact that no sane person would get in the car with them. If you are dealing with an elder who is not safe behind the wheel but still insists on driving, you should refer them to a driving assessment course at your local rehabilitation center. You should also sell the car or store it off premises.
When it’s my time to quit driving, I won’t put up a fight. I’ll UBER.
My generation is lucky to have UBER. Uber will allow me to maintain my independence and dignity. The older we get the smarter we need to be if we are expected to enjoy living. Losses are inevitable so it is of paramount importance that we recognize/admit to the losses and look to technology to help overcome our lost functions and keep us functional.
Of course, there will always be losses that can’t be overcome, Alzheimer’s being one. I think the saddest thing in the world is watching someone you love slowly drift away as their memory leaves them. Often, all that is left is an empty shell and misery. I’ll address Alzheimer’s in a future article but, for the purposes of this article, know that I think we keep bodies alive way too long, ensuring that they are miserable and their families are miserable.
As for me, I will make the best out of what abilities I have left with one exception. If I’m no longer able to enjoy life or really only the shell that used to be Doc Segal, then send me away, but not to a nursing home! Send me to meet God. (I’ll delve into my thoughts about euthanasia at a later date.)
Here’s today’s music and a joke.
You Know You’re Middle Aged If…
- You’ve come to the annoying realization that your parents were right about almost everything.
- The bag boy volunteers to help load groceries into your car—in the “ten items or less” lane.
- You’ve stopped supporting your children and started supporting your parents.
- You’ve found yourself discussing rain gutters.
- You remember your kid’s names, just not always the right one.
- You have nightmares about forgetting to move the garbage cans to the street for the garbage collector.
- Your high school yearbook is now home to three different species of mold.
- You buy “age-defying” makeup and “antiwrinkle” creams and believe they work.
- You’ve realized that all those geeky people in Bermuda shorts walking around Disney World include you.
- You recognize Led Zeppelin songs that have been turned into elevator music.
- As a public service, you have agreed to never appear on the beach in a Speedo again.
- You’ve had three opportunities to buy every single Disney Animated Classic—“for the last time in a generation”
- You’d pay good money to be strip-searched.
- Wal-Mart and target seem to share your fashion sense.
- The only way you know to stop a virtual pet from beeping involves the patio and a sledgehammer.
- You can pack two suits, Five shirts, five ties, five pairs of underwear, five pairs of socks, a pair of shoes, and half of your bathroom into a carry-on bag—in less than five minutes.
- You know what Earth Shoes are.
- You think if you hear “Stairway to Heaven” one more time your head will explode.
- Your weight-lifting program seems to have no effect on your muscles, but the veins on the backs of your hands are bulking up quite nicely.
- On Saturday night, when your wife mentions “hot oil, a little friction, and squealing,” you tell her you’ll have the car looked at first thing Monday morning.