General Interest / Senior Living

Confronting Illusions

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A couple of events have occurred recently that have me thinking about some of the illusions we maintain as we age. Here are three.

DEMENTIA. You may not be at all concerned about developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia – today. But you should be. It’s in the back of my mind – all the time. I may have reason for concern. As he aged, my father developed vascular dementia. He died at age 89, a dear, sweet man who at that point in his life didn’t have a clue about anything going on around him. And now as my mother ages, and her short term memory issues are worsening daily, I find the “will-I-get-dementia” fear creeping up at unexpected times. A couple days ago I couldn’t recall my zip code. I sat there struggling – at a loss for those illusive 5 digits. And I wondered: was this memory lapse an indicator of bigger things to come? In the US today, 5.4M have Alzheimer’s, and 200,000 are under age 65. One American develops it every 68 seconds. Want to live to a ripe old age? Consider that half of all American’s 85+ have Alzheimer’s.

I pray I don’t develop dementia, but I do more than that. I watch my diet, exercise my body and my mind and, through reading and education, try to be proactive. One thing I don’t do, though. I don’t kid myself. While I don’t live in fear, I won’t allow an illusion that “it won’t happen,” or “a cure will soon be developed” take hold. That would just encourage inaction, lack of preparation, and future dependence. Not me. Not my style.

AGE DOESN’T MATTER. �Age does matter, a lot. And it’s not always for the better. Take employment and job-hunting. Ever try to find a job after your 50th birthday? It’s a difficult challenge and it takes After Fiftiers longer to find that job than it does younger workers. If you’ve been uninitiated into the world of recent unemployment, you may be under the illusion that the existing age-discrimination laws will protect you. Think again. And if you do find an After Fifty job, there’s a greater than 50% chance that your salary will be lower, probably significantly lower than what you were making before.

And then consider our bodies. Every day we’re a day older. Think you’ll never need a cane, or a walker, or a wheel chair or scooter to get around? Do those ads for stair lifts have you laughing? Hopefully your need for assistive devices will never become a reality. But what are you doing to make sure that’s the case? Are you under the illusion that your body doesn’t need to be maintained?

Of course age matters. It matters in employment, in the world of sports, in health, finance, and more. Facing and addressing the realities of our age will make us stronger. Don’t shrink from the challenge.

THE GOVERNMENT WILL TAKE CARE OF ME. Oh-me-oh-my. I’m not saying that Social Security is going to run dry or that Medicare will evaporate. But the current financial system in the US is very dire.��And many people in-the-know are predicting that changes to these�programs is certain. Believing at this point that Uncle Sam will�swoop in and save you�may not be so wise.��Each of us is responsible for our own lives, our own successes and failures, our own futures. Spent your money on your kids or other family members? Thoughtful, generous – but don’t plan on re-imbursement. The difficult�economy is impacting�most of us�and while�you may be hoping that others will help you out, it may not be feasible. You’re the master of your life and the best person to count on moving forward is you.

FINALLY. I fell down a complete flight of stairs recently and I got thinking about that. Yes, I’m bruised – but maybe the reason I didn’t shatter a bone is because I’m in relatively good shape. And so I’m renewing my pledge to exercise regularly. Doing so will help not only my bones but my brain, too. And those illusive zip-code digits? I pay (a lot) for long-term-care insurance – and had thought that maybe I’d let it lapse. But that very real “memory struggle” got me thinking. I don’t want to burden my family – either physically or financially. So I’ll keep up the payments!

In the ‘60’s and 70’s we frequently chanted, “All you need is love…” But now that we approach our chronological 60’s and 70’s we face a harsh reality. Love is great – yup, can’t beat it. But the grocer, the doctor, want more than sweet lovin’ when it comes to addressing our needs. “Are you ready? Are you ready?”

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