Public Comment

Healthy Living: The Aging Process Beyond Four Score and Ten

By Rose Green
Friday July 06, 2007

For years my definition of a bore was “Someone, who when you ask how they are, they tell you.” It always got a laugh. However, these days the laugh’s on me. For I myself am now that quintessential Bore. When asked how I feel no longer say “Fine!” Instead, I launch into a recital of my aches and pains, completely disregarding the stifled yawns around me. I cannot believe that I’ve turned into such a person—one I don’t like at all. Never in my wildest nightmares did I think that I could bore anyone—and myself as well! 

So here I am, past my four score and ten, with a string of ailments euphemistically dubbed “part of the aging process.” The trouble with living past 90 is there’s no future in it. Our faculties fade and our body parts deteriorate, period. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. 

It’s not like when I was younger and survived such crises as a hysterectomy, gall bladder removal and ovarian cancer. Today I’m not even sure I can survive the common cold. All I know is that my life is changing. The activities I still enjoy will diminish. My energy level will drop and I will need more sleep than ever. And then I will find myself constantly losing things and wasting precious time looking for them. Whatever I do will take twice as long. Et cerera, et cetera, et cetera. The list is endless. 

And yet, believe it or not, these are minor inconveniences compared with my big problem—macular degeneration—or a gradual loss of vision. Although it will proceed slowly and I will never be completely blind, the fact remains that I can no longer read newspapers, magazines or books unless they are in large print. My friends tell me that talking books are just as good—but not for me. I like the feel of a book, I like the printed word. I like turning the pages. Trips to the library are no longer the fun they used to be. 

Even more frustrating are my shopping trips. Up till now, my biggest problem in Long’s or Safeway was my height—or lack of it. More often than no, what I wanted was on a top shelf and I couldn’t reach it. Now I can barely see it, let alone read the label or the price tag. Similarly, when waiting for the bus, I cannot read its number as it approaches, or read the schedules posted at the bus stop. And when I’m finally on my way, I can’t read the street signs or house numbers to know when to get off. 

The saving grace in all this is what my mind is still fairly sharp. Not as sharp as I’d like, but sharp enough. Nor has my sense of humor left me, and though there are days when I feel so sorry for myself, I find nothing to laugh about. It’s just no fun getting older. 

Last year when I wrote my memoir Turning Points I felt I was at my peak. I was sure I’d soon have another big writing project under way. No such luck. The book was finished in December and on Jan. 12, I had a panic attack. Barely breathing, I managed to call my daughter, Debbie, who called 911. I vaguely remember lying in an ambulance, being in the Alta Bates Emergency Room, and then being transferred to Kaiser Hospital where I stayed for almost a week. The attack changed my life altogether. My other daughter and mygranddaughter Suzin and Coby, flew out from New Jersey to join Debbie and her daughter and me. That was the best part of being sick—I was surrounded by my dear ones. They spoiled me rotten and I loved every minute. But that too ended when they had to return to their own lives. 

I can go on like this, but it just occurred to me how boring I must be. I’ve been telling you just how I feel, and you haven’t even ask me. Nor did I ask you how you feel. Please forgive this crochety old woman. That’s the trouble with the aging process.