A friend recently shared a video of the comic Louis C.K.( it is embedded in this column but it does have a little swearing in it) The video was a sketch about visiting the doctor after you’ve become 40 years old. When you are 20, every malady is treated aggressively as you are still almost a child. After 40, these same problems are seen as just the first steps of your eventual slide to death. In the video, Louis C.K. talked about his maladies and how the doctor had no interest in fixing the problem but rather just described ways to live with the problem. The doctor even told Louis that if he were an athlete they might repair his bad ankle but then shook his head and said that Louis was “obviously not an athlete.”
America seems to be a culture of youth. There’s always been more interest in what is new and trendy than in what is tried and true. We never believe those with experience but rather those that have exuberance. Manufacturers have marketed to the 11-17 year-old group for so long that we now mistake this spotlight as a circle of honor.
The next time you drive by a home for the aged, I want you to think about this; these buildings are a warehouse of knowledge. The people who live in these places were once young and energetic. They took this energy and changed the world with their hands instead of their mouths as is so popular today. These are people who were lucky if they were able to graduate school and so received a senior’s worth of education by the end of eighth grade. Their knowledge was then tempered by years of survival which was forced them to learn how to live life.
My dad died when he was 90. He had some physical problems but his mind was good. His perspective was that he wanted to go home and maybe even farm some more. That’s what people need to remember about older folks-many times their minds are still healthy and they want to get as much out of life as anyone else. They may be restricted by their bodies but their intelligence and experience could run circles around someone 1/4 their age.
I will go even a little further. The people at the home are the last of our best. They survived at a time before vaccines and antibiotics. This meant that most families saw one of their children die young. It also meant that those who lived developed an incredible immune system which was further enhanced by the develop of vaccines (polio-1955) and antibiotics (penicillin-1928, first Sulfa drug-1935). They walked more, worked more, had more children, created most of the infrastructure that we have failed to maintain and won a war in which a loss would have resulted in the world-wide enslavement of the human spirit. They created a system that was so good at feeding us and protecting its people that it eventually created entitled, spoiled grandchildren who will not live as long as those who created this nation as we know it. Ironic; and not the good kind of ironic.
I did not want to end this column sad. However, when I drive by an old folks home and see a line-up of young minds-full of the knowledge- just watching traffic go by; maybe it would be silly to end it as anything but sad.