It’s a fact of life that our bodies change with the passage of time. Those changes come in a million different ways. Some of them are predictable while some of them less so. Some of them are inconspicuous and some unavoidable. It’s fair to say that few of them are entirely welcome, but the good news is that we don’t have to go through them alone.
It’s a cliché to say that people of a younger generation are more receptive to change than their elders, but that ignores the fact that those of us of a certain age have experienced first-hand a heck of a lot of change over the years. We have lived through the most dramatic scientific, cultural and technological shifts in human history and, of course, we have each travelled a fair way along the journey of personal maturation as well. We have lived a long time with change.
A medical note
The state of modern healthcare can appear an impersonal, computerised affair that is more about data and drugs than the good old-fashioned business of caring for people and treating them in a personal, compassionate fashion. The way medicine is run means that it can seem a frighteningly sterile business.
Ill-health is one of those things that is never going to be glamourous and as a result is all-too-easy to sweep under the carpet. But, as we age, it is inevitable that we are obliged to ask the people around us for a little help in one area or another. Whilst it is easy to be proud and to suffer in silence, it is part of our duty as elder citizens to be open and honest about what it means to mature. If the media is not going to do the job of making old age acceptable, then it is down to us.
Honest role models
That means developing good relationships with our doctors and medics, just as it means being honest with our kids and our grandchildren about the changes our bodies may be going through. Being straightforward with the medics is common sense, but it can also improve the quality of the service we receive. In some cases it may be necessary to file a case against an under-attentive medic because something has gone wrong. But getting to know your doctor on a friendly, personal basis is part of the unwritten job of being a patient.
Similarly, being open and unselfconscious with those who are closest to us is an important way to both share fully in the experience of being a family, and to model to our grandkids that ill-health and infirmity are nothing unusual and nothing to be ashamed about. They are simply different ways to be normal.
Young people live in a media world that is disproportionately populated by the glamourous and the beautiful. It gives them a distorted view that is unlikely to serve them well in later life. It is our obligation as grandparents to show that there is more to social life than superficial and short-term relationships. And honestly sharing the changes that come with the passage of time is the best way to carry it out – for everyone.
Note: Cover photo by Kris Krug