Sunday, May 24, 2009

May Is Older Americans Month

Harrumph! I guess that all one has to do to qualify for this particular honor is get old. I can do that. I have done that. You've heard the expression, "Wise beyond his years" I assume? That would be a compliment paid to a younger person who displays knowledge, judgment, or common sense usually not attained by a person of such tender years. When I was younger, I took this to be a reasonable and desirable manner of viewing the phenomenon. As I have personally become "beyond my years," I'm not at all certain that I approve of it. At times this concept seems to be holding me to a standard that does not coincide well with the actual aging process.

I shall offer a few examples that would seem to refute this expectation of "Older Americans." You knew I would. Don't pretend otherwise.

  • For fairly obvious reasons there is no equivalent visual statement; "his visual acuity is beyond his years?" I think not! That would imply a group of young, nearsighted, bi- or tri-focal wearing persons who trip over their cats or worse. This is not complimentary. At best it might mean that the young person's cataracts are developing more slowly than anticipated.
  • Nor is there a similar compliment for the sense of smell. Olfactory sensitivity is the quickest adapting of the senses. I have seen it written that "old people smell bad," (not badly.) I do not believe this refers to my ability to perceive scents so much as my ability to produce them. I would not be referred to as an old fart were this the case. This may be a blessing in disguise, however, as I may become flatulent at will and can not notice the odor produced by two large male cats, which has been reported to me to be strong enough to overwhelm an unsuspecting visitor.
  • He can hear beyond his years? No. No compliment there. Cumulative hearing damage and tinnitus from early exposure to eardrum shattering rock music, race engine exhaust collector dumps, and gunfire pretty well negated that. There is an inadvertent exception to this observation, however. I can now listen to Pink Floyd, Eagles, or Beach Boys music as loudly as I wish in the Audio-Technica headphones without much concern about inflicting further damage to myself.
  • Can he taste beyond his years? That would largely depend upon whether or not he has his dentures in, would it not? That would imply a choice between enjoying the taste of food at a social occasion but appearing oblivious to the social graces or submitting to what is expected and eating cardboard "in good taste."
  • Is he able to feel better than he could in his youth? "Aye, there's the rub." I believe that my sense of touch remains approximately the same as it was but there appears to have been a dramatic reduction in the number of willing recipients of that touch as there once were. If we refer to "feel" in terms of emotion rather than sensory ability, the answer is a qualified yes. Rather than the "Sturm und Drang" emotional storms of youth, the feeling of the unpartnered aged male is much more likely to be stable but negative and alone.

Having complained this much one might think I was finished. One would be wrong. I just learned that May is Older American Month. I missed out on a full two-thirds of my allotted complaining time! The alternative, that I knew earlier but forgot, is unacceptable. Adding further indignity to the newsletter were articles such as Fun Facts About the Senior Population and 10 Ways Communities Can Prepare for the Aging Population Boom. At the risk of repeating myself, Harrumph!

Peace, Doc

Copyright © 2009, Thomas A. Blood, Ph.D.

"When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it." - Mark Twain

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