TAKE YOUR PICK!
by Eleanor Jaffe
I am looking at two articles from the NY Times printed this past August whose subjects both have to do with aging. There cannot be two more different articles than these two. One of them, published in the business section on August 19th, is entitled, “Coping with the Dread of Inching Toward Oblivion.” The second, published on August 13 on a page called “Vows,” concerns a wedding: “She’s 98. He’s 94. They Met at the Gym,.” Each piece reflects a truly real aspect and possibility about aging, albeit 180 degrees different from one another. TAKE YOUR PICK!
The first article, written by economist Ron Lieber, was prompted by the near collapse of Medicaid, a logical outcome if Obamacare had been nullified by Congress this past summer. Fortunately, and for the moment, Medicaid stands–a bulwark for seniors who cannot afford long-term nursing care either in a facility or at home. This care becomes a necessity when elders are faced with diseases like Alzheimer’s or any serious degenerative disease necessitating round the clock supervision and monitoring. Lieber reviews several books written by caretakers and recommends them. You may want to consult them: The 36 Hour Day by N.L.Mace and P. Rabins; A Bittersweet Season by Jane Gross, and Being My Mom’s Mom by Loretta A.W. Veneer.
A number of us are all too familiar with the subject of long-term care. We have nursed our husbands or wives or parents through long, painful demises and know what it is like to have our loved ones change and diminish before our eyes. There are compensations for care-taking, and mixed blessings do accompany caring for a beloved one during a downhill course, but care-taking, nevertheless, is one of life’s heaviest burdens.
AND ON THE OTHER HAND! Here’s a vibrant story of a lively romance between two fit 90-year-olds (she’s almost 100). Their courtship and marriage makes me smile and gives me hope that life can continue to bring joyfulness, unexpected good times, true companionship, and even romantic love – no matter what your age. (We have even seen some of these romances at BOLLI!)
IS THERE A COMMONALITY HERE? I have searched my mind for one, and this is what I think: we have a lot of love to give. And we also have a great need to be needed and loved. Caring for your loved one, no matter what degree of pain or suffering we may experience as the caretaker, certainly lets us know that we are needed at the most fundamental of all levels. At the other end of the spectrum, romantic love allows us the full expression of our desires. We are needed. We are loved. We are fully alive, giving and receiving.
It is one of life’s great puzzles that some of us are given heavy burdens to carry, sometimes over long periods of time. Others of us seem to dodge the bullets of protracted illnesses, hurricanes (of all sorts), financial trials, and losses of many kinds.
If only we could TAKE OUR PICK!
As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of 53 years, my friends–and my 104 year old mother. What does it mean to grow older in today’s society? My experiences as a social worker, as a high school English teacher, doing a lot of reading about aging and loss, and living to 80 (so far) have prepared me to write this blog.
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4 thoughts on “OCTOBER’S SENIOR MOMENT WITH ELEANOR JAFFEE: TAKE YOUR PICK!”
Your outstanding articles are indeed noticed! You write so well, Eleanor, and I, for one, appreciate your thoughtful looks at aging and how to navigate the worries and stresses of growing older.
Funny–as I write this, I’m thinking that even though we’ve successfully “outlived” the stresses of what college we were going to get into, who we were going to marry, how we would support growing families in the age of materialism, we now have new stresses: Will we be able to age in place? Will we grow older healthfully? How can we make our lives meaningful? What do we do if we, or our partners, get some dread disease?
Perhaps the resilience of knowing how to live with stress and deal with it is the greatest blessing we can have! And it’s especially true in this time of serious political upheaval and fear.
There is so much hope and peacefulness in the pieces that you and Liz write, thank you. You remind me of Molly Ivins, that great sage who gave us texture and strength, and who I wish was here with us during this stressful time. Thank you Eleanor for your time and your thoughtfulness.
Helen — What a heavy load you carry. I am humbled by your acknowledgement. May you have strength….Eleanor
Fran — Yes, I agree: resilience is an essential quality, and we never know how much we have until we are tested….
Lydia — Your comparison of Liz and me to Molly Ivins leaves me breathless! Thank you! I am glad to know that we can provide some “hope and. peacefulness.” We try….
Fran – you wrote just what I was thinking – only so much better.
Eleanor – as I care for my 98 year old mother and watch my 93 year old partner age – I’m comforted knowing that so many of us share these experiences. Thank you for your articles.