AGEING: What’s the hardest part about getting older that no one ever talks about?

Most older people actually do talk about the hardest parts, along with saddest parts, the scariest parts, the embarrassing parts, and even the funniest parts. But maybe not to everyone.One senior who answered the question wrote a response that is a very interesting read and she brought up certain salient points that should be addressed.

It is true that many older people insist on pushing through things, risking falls and injuries because they can’t or won’t let go of the memories of their previous capabilities. Although to be fair, sometimes they simply have to do possibly dangerous stuff because they are entirely on their own, cannot wait for some family member who may come around next month, or simply can’t spare the cost of a professional tradesperson.

However, every person over sixty (and even many over fifty) are more than happy to acknowledge, and laugh or grumble about the new sucky stuff they find themselves doing. For example:

  • Installing those rails in the bathroom, or the anti-slip mats in the shower.
  • Avoiding once-loved baths because they’re wary of the difficulty in getting in and worse — the possibility of falling when they try to get out. If that’s not enough, there’s the thought of cleaning the tub afterwards.
  • Actually not running with scissors or other dangerous objects for the first time since they originally left home. (Or at least not walking with the dangerous bits pointed upward toward their faces.)
  • Avoiding eating in ways that could precipitate choking.
  • Creating Plan Bs to avoid possible mishaps, like hiding spare house keys in the garage in case you accidentally leave your keys on the kitchen counter. Setting reminders on your phone to turn the stove/hose/whatever off.
  • Worrying about controlling bodily functions.

The lists go on and on.

Older people are the only group who really understand their mortality, and their frailty is especially worrisome to the many who are truly on their own — no spouse and no family to speak of. Nearly all in this category are afraid of being injured and dying because there was no one to find them, and they worry immensely about any beloved companion animals. They are afraid of heart attacks, strokes, and Alzheimer’s. They might not talk about these things to younger people, but they certainly discuss these issues as well as deeply personal, sensitive and possibly embarrassing issues, with other likeminded and/or sympathetic individuals.

And yes, it’s also true that many older people, especially those who were unusually beautiful and/or attractive in their younger years (and, like it or not, experienced a lifetime of being judged by their looks, often very unkindly), do suffer under a “shadow of their youth” and can wind up needing to be dragged kicking and screaming into that dark night rather than donning sensible shoes and cardigans and fading into a silent and dignified background.

But while some many struggle with losing what they think was their best or only appeal, most women in this category do not run around in tank tops and leggings, but rather they go to great lengths to make the best of what they’ve got and dress to cover up the saggy stuff. (They probably can’t run anyway, but they do hold their heads up and try to walk as though they’re still fit and strong until they find a chair to fall into.) While there are the occasional few who will try to surgically drag years back or fill in fading parts, most either simply can’t afford to or else they realise that creating caricatures of themselves is a waste of time, money, and possibly life if they look for it while under anaesthetic.

However, on the subject of being older and still looking good, it should be noted here that Dame Helen Mirren, at 64, enjoyed a 59-41 advantage over Megan Fox, 23, in a poll run by Esquire magazine as the woman considered most attractive. It doesn’t matter what your age is; confidence and style will always rock.

As for “falling in love” — love of any sort, including romantic love, is not dependent upon age. It’s just that the chance of finding a romantic partner decreases rather drastically with age, for women especially. They’ve gone from swimming in that fish-filled sea to picking their way past occasional puddles in the wheel ruts left by the years that are speeding by. Single men in retirement villages can obtain almost rockstar status, conferred entirely by their availability and definitely enhanced by any physical capability such as walking or eating unaided.

It’s true to say that older people can be emotionally vulnerable, just like lonely, unhappy, or unfulfilled twenty, thirty, or forty-something people can be. Unlike younger people though, they’ve usually learned a thing or two about making mistakes. Also, the older a person gets, the more a general companionship seems higher on the list of desirability rather than some hot and torrid romp which, it must be said, is kinda seen as more of thing needing special lighting (or removal of all visual aids), to be completed by 9.00pm (which is the new midnight), and overall as being just too messy and too much damned work. But they still love movies like Something’s Gotta Give, Boynton Beach Club, Never Again, and even Hope Springs.

Then there’s the issue of STDs, which is not openly talked about enough in any age group. With regard to the occurrence of these diseases, it is true that the rate of diagnosed STDs is higher among older people.* However, the largest population carrying an STD or most at risk of contracting one continues to be the younger population. This can be confirmed by checking sources such as the CDC or etc.. The simple message is that safe sexual practices need to be followed regardless of age.

*Dr. Stacy Lindau, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and medicine-geriatrics at the University of Chicago and director of the program in integrative sexual medicine at WomanLab, a public-access website covering women and sex in the context of aging and illness, says that while there does appear to be an increase – likely driven by several factors – it’s important to keep these figures in perspective. “Although it appears that there’s an increase in rates, the rates (of sexually transmitted infections among older adults) are still exceedingly low.”


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