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Reflections On Growing Old

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Jack is a volunteer at the CCNY Archives. Before retiring, he worked at IBM for over 28 years. As of 2/2020, Jack has over 100,000 views.

reflections-on-growing-old

Introduction

I am 68 years old and healthy. I thank God everyday for my good fortune. Some of my friends are not so lucky. They are dealing with various issues relating to their health and mental well being. I am writing this essay in anticipation of the future, to a time when I may face the same predicaments. How would I like to be viewed and treated. While I am of sound mind and body, I feel it is beneficial to put my feelings down on paper and share my experiences.

- Feb. 2020

My Views on Life and Death and Old Age...

As a religious person, with faith, I am not so worried about dying. I fully realize that we will all face that end when the time comes. Some will be sudden and some may be a long tortuous prospect, but we will all die someday. The more interesting question for me is how will others react to my dying? or my decline in physical and mental capabilities. If in the case of dementia, how would I want to be treated? Obviously, if I do develop dementia, I would not be able to voice my opinion at that time. It may be good to speak about this while I an still lucid.

My views are simple. Life is what you make of it. You can choose to be happy or sad. The half full/half empty glass theory. The same glass of water can be viewed as half full or half empty. Dying is a natural part of the life cycle. We are expected to live a life that is productive and then expire and make room for the next generations to come. The hardest part is growing old. That is why we may feel some regret and missed opportunities and not having the energy or the physical ability to accomplish what we may want to accomplish. There is nothing wrong with some introspection. There may even be some redemption possible.

Perfection does not exist in our world. No one has a perfect life. We try to make the best of it and celebrate our successes and apologize for our failings. The goal is to leave this world a better place than we found it.

Background

Everyone have experienced deja vu sometimes.That is a feeling that we have been here before.

The opposite of deja vu is called Jamais vu. It’s a French word meaning “never seen”. It’s the feeling or experience that a person knows or recongnizes a situation, but that it still seems very unfamiliar or unknown. A common example of Jamais vu is when a person momentarily does not recognize a word, person, or place that they already know.

A third form of this is premonition where we can see ourselves in the future doing something or experiencing something that we can relate to today. That is my focus for this article. I want to describe a scenario in the future where I might be going through some of the same issues that some of my friends are dealing with today.

One example is the loss of short term memory. We all get a little forgetful sometimes. That is different then a form of dementia where one forgets something from just a minute ago. A telling sign is repeating the same question again and again even though we were told the answer. From a caretaker point of view, this can be very frustrating. It takes a tremendous amount of patience.

How To Deal With It?

I have a dear friend who is going through this now. He is a few years older than me and I can almost see myself in a similar situation in the future. How would I deal with it? How would I expect or hope my family members deal with my dementia? This is a deep issue and involves some serious thought.

From my own understanding of the brain and how it functions, I can see how this may be unsettling for the person afflicted with this condition. He or she would be frightened by the lost of "control" over the simple things we take for granted. It also must be frustrating to be unable to remember the simplest things.

To use an analogy in the computer jargon, It is like if the cache memory is wiped clean and all we have is the hard drive or long-term permanent memory. The short-term cache memory is gone and we cannot compute with ease.

Lucky for us that there are many things we can do without having the short-term memory functioning. We can walk and breath and chew food and do all kinds of things like playing the piano or fence which are complicated maneuvers. What happens is that we have autonomous control over parts of our body so that the main brain does not need to be engaged. In addition, we have muscle memory that is developed over time and many practice sessions such that we can play a piece of music from memory without the help of the central brain.

The problem arise when we are asked to retain new information. If this happened to me, I hope to be treated with respect, and understanding. No pity, no sadness or guilt. I want the people around me to feel good about being there with me. Their presence mean the whole lot to me. Even if I can't verbalize it, know that I am grateful for their caring.

As for me, I think everyone wants to be relevant. They want people to know that their live made a difference. Either in their career accomplishments or personal connections. They created something new and better to help others. Or, they made a difference in the development of a child or a family member.

I spent six months writing my autobiography. My hope is that future generations will have a chance to read it. It is my story and a part of theirs. We are all connected in some way.

Virtues...

It is said patience is a virtue. It is more true when dealing with dementia. It can be frustrating to repeat the same answers and remind someone multiple times of things and events. Some ideas to help deal with the day to day issues.

  • Establish a regular routine.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Have a pocket calendar and include the most important information.
  • Pack only one bag with all items.
  • Use technology when possible ie. find my iphone app., set timers
  • Reduce clutter
  • Put common used items in same location ie. chargers, glasses, keys...
  • Save passwords in a secure location
  • post reminders
  • monitor progress
  • See Dr. on a regular basis
  • Take medication as prescribed
  • Exercise regularly
  • Meditate
  • Pray

Summary

Life is a journey. We all start out the same way out of the womb. We make choices along the way, some good, some bad and some indifferent. Hopefully, we are traveling upwards. Reaching new goals and breaking barriers. We want our lives to matter. As we grow older, and wiser, I hope we can pass along that wisdom to the next generation. Along that path, hopefully we have also enriched the lives of others. Fell in love and had children and grand children. Created something beautiful and lasting. Made our world, though imperfect, a better place.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Jack Lee

Comments

Jack Lee (author) from Yorktown NY on March 01, 2020:

Bushra, Thanks for checking in. It is a reality for some people. I just hope people are better informed to deal with it.

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on March 01, 2020:

Thank you for an informative and thought-provoking, if depressing, read.

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on February 28, 2020:

I enjoyed reading your view on a topic many of us will have to deal with sooner or later. A working memory is a treasure.