October 12, 2017

Growing Older - the beauty, the realizations and some horrifying stories

Usula K. Le Guin on Growing Old

One rule of the game, in most times and places, is that it’s the young who are beautiful. The beauty ideal is always a youthful one. This is partly simple realism. The young are beautiful. The whole lot of ’em. The older I get, the more clearly I see that and enjoy it....And yet I look at men and women my age and older, and their scalps and knuckles and spots and bulges, though various and interesting, don’t affect what I think of them. Some of these people I consider to be very beautiful, and others I don’t. For old people, beauty doesn’t come free with the hormones, the way it does for the young. It has to do with bones. It has to do with who the person is. More and more clearly it has to do with what shines through those gnarly faces and bodies.....

As her mother lay dying

I glimpse what no mirror can reflect, the spirit flashing out across the years, beautiful.  That must be what the great artists see and paint. That must be why the tired, aged faces in Rembrandt’s portraits give us such delight: they show us beauty not skin-deep but life-deep.

What Does It Feel Like To Be 80 Years Old Knowing That Death Is Imminent?  by Stan Hayward.

I am in my 80s. To be this age is largely luck. To be this age and reasonably healthy with peace of mind is even luckier. To be this age, be healthy, and not lonely makes one feel so lucky that you want to gulp the moments down like a drowning man reaching air....I regret much but also realize that having regrets meant that I had opportunities to regret; I was lucky to have those opportunities....

When friends pass away, it is not just their presence that is lost, it is also the memories they have of you. The “Do you remember when…?” conversations that pepper the elderly reminiscences. Fear of death is actually rare and is commonly a joke. On the other hand, fear of losing one’s memories, faculties, or independence is real. We put a great value on having people who we can trust — especially to carry out wishes when we are gone. Making final decisions can be upsetting, particularly if they relate to young people who are distant in age and lifestyle yet close in relationship....

So, what is it like to be in your eighties? It is really not much different from being any age where your concerns are getting through the day. On the other hand, people have more importance than possessions; comfort more worth than ambition; trust more value than money; love more satisfying than immortality. Perhaps in some ways, one wants to leave the world as one entered it; without fear or pain; without anger or distrust; without possessions or debts; without demands or expectations; in innocence.

How the Elderly Lose Their Rights by Rachel Aviv in the New Yorker
Horrifying stories of how 'guardians can sell the assets and control the lives of senior citizens without their consent—and reap a profit from it'.

“The families were devastated that they couldn’t know if the residents were in surgery or hear anything about their health. They didn’t understand why they’d been taken out of the picture. They’d ask, ‘Can you just tell me if she’s alive?’ ” Liebo tried to comply with the rules, because she didn’t want to violate medical-privacy laws; as guardian, Parks was entitled to choose what was disclosed...

One senior  said that "strangers were making decisions about her fate. She felt as if she were frozen: she couldn’t influence what was happening. “I didn’t know what to do,” she told Scott. “I think I yelled for help. Help me.” The worst part, she said, was that she couldn’t find her family. “Honest to God, I thought you guys left me all alone.”
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Approximately ten per cent of people older than sixty-five are thought to be victims of “elder abuse”—a construct that has yet to enter public consciousness, as child abuse has—but such cases are seldom prosecuted. People who are frail or dying don’t make good witnesses—a fact that Shafer once emphasized at a 1990 U.S. congressional hearing on crimes against the elderly, in which he appeared as an expert at preventing exploitation. “Seniors do not like to testify,” he said, adding that they were either incapable or “mesmerized by the person ripping them off.” He said, “The exploitation of seniors is becoming a real cottage industry right now. This is a good business. Seniors are unable to fend for themselves.”...

Posted by Jill Fallon at October 12, 2017 12:43 PM | Permalink