The Dark Side of Ageing: Ageing never gets old…

“What? Old? I’ll think about my eighties after I get a degree, a job, a pet and a year of travelling. And maybe a family.”

Nope, retirement funds are definitely not in the top of college students’ priorities. And that’s a good thing, because then, they won’t realize the downside of ageing until it’s too late. Before I go further, heed this warning: this article will be a pessimist one.

Various medias try to promote ageing as a relaxing reward after a life full of excitement and hard work. If you surround yourself with the right people in life, you’ll be a fulfilled old man/woman, they say. If you work hard and do what you’re supposed to do now, like getting a job, you’ll have a happy retirement, they say. It is possible! We’ve all seen cute stories of couples celebrating their 70th marriage anniversary on the Internet or, simply, in our everyday lives, witnessed elderly going on happily about theirs; I wish for these fortunate ones even more joy and luck.

However, that’s only the bright part of ageing and we all know a coin has two sides: we just haven’t heard of the other as much. After all, usually people prefer to show others the best of them, not when they feel weak and lost.

Obviously, life is unpredictable. You never know when new and old decisions alike, or even circumstances out of your control will come back to bite you. That can lead to a surprising number of elderly way past the retirement age who still have to work (not necessarily at the best of jobs) to sustain themselves and possibly their family. Those who can’t find another source of income are victims to poverty and even homeless-ness.

What about those who are not part of these more extreme exceptions? Unfortunately, even they are not protected from the unavoidable human decay. First of all, have you ever stepped in a care center for the elderly? If not, perhaps you should take a stroll in my borough: there are two of them within 10 min. of walk from my house. Also, not all of those residents chose to be there. Once, with friends, we organized a Christmas show to provide some entertainment during their lunch. You’d be surprised how talkative old people can be. One of them, a nearly blind man, started telling us, amongst others, how he got there, how he was glad we “talented youngsters” came to pay a visit, how he knew his vision was worsening but never imagined how big of a change this problem would cause. Yeah, whether we want it or not, our body parts, at some point, stop functioning one by one, and there is almost nothing we can do about it. Alzheimer’s, bladder leaks, essential tremor: you name it.

In addition to physical obstacles, many elders also face psychological ones, some which can even lead to suicide. It saddens me to think that one of the things my dear neighbor, the sweetest lady you could have next door, said every single time we visited her in the last few years is how scared and
lonely she feels sometimes. Scared to see problems with organs she never had before, and this despite a healthy lifestyle, and most importantly, lonely because she scarcely sees her children anymore, since some live abroad and others are busy with adulthood and raising their own offspring. Even my mom, recently, reminds me from time to time, to “bring her wherever I go” in the future; not necessarily in the same house, “at least within 15 min. by car” is enough. Despite her joking tone, I can’t help but feel heavy inside while taking a mental note in my longterm memory to bless my parents, to make them feel
spoiled, to NEVER abandon them no matter how dependent or tiring they become. And to remember that there are many ageing people who don’t have as much luck and are abandoned instead.

In brief, if I could choose to not grow old, I totally would, because ageing sucks. But since we’re all pretty much forced to go through it anyway, why not do our best to make it as best as possible and take advantage of the perks? Or, at least, help the elderly around us have a blast: even the smallest details such as remembering their birthday or visiting on Christmas can make someone’s day.


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Originally Published in Bandersnatch Vol. 47 Issue 6 on November 22, 2017