Ageing UngracefullyPosted: December 11, 2012
I was recently forced to reflect on how I perceive my own age when confronted by my 84 year old dad who insists that he is too young and capable to consider downsizing or seeking assistance. Like the bloodied limbless Black Knight in the Monty Python’s Search for the Holly Grail, life’s health and mobility setbacks are all considered mere ‘flesh wounds’ against all the evidence to the contrary.
And ‘what is wrong with that’ I’ve had to ask myself.
On reflection I’ve come to the conclusion that although I’m happy to embrace concerns about climate change and even do my bit towards saving the planet, when it comes to accepting or even recognising my own ageing process, I’m hypocritical. I have double standards, one I apply to my own self perception and a very different one for others.
My mirror tells me every morning that I look the same as I did yesterday, and has done so every day for the last 57 years odd years. It is others who make observations about my age that my mirror doesn’t make, but that is their perception, not mine. I’m still young, and I’m happy to debate the issue with anyone who thinks otherwise. Just don’t break my mirror.
I came to the realisation that dad’s mirror has the same message for him as mine has for me. A light globe moment!
It is easy to observe that we are very subjective about ourselves whilst we are more objective about others. When it comes to aged care and concern about parents and friends though, which should take priority? Assuming they have mental capacity, is a parent’s desire to remain at home of greater importance than the family’s concern for their health and wellbeing and their desire to help them relocate to more suitable premises with care facilities.
As ridiculous as dad’s self perception may be, I had to ask myself what the risk is of making him objectively face his reality. Would I smash his mirror and convert him to a safe but miserable old man overnight?
So how then do we balance our objective concerns with a respone like ‘no one is putting me in God’s waiting room to wait out my days. I’m not that old and anyway I’m perfectly happpy here’. It would be an admission of mortality, a first step to allowing the aging process to take hold and perhaps overwhelm if he let go of his position.
Luckily he sits on a line oscillating between passive aggressive and belligerent when it comes to discussions about aged care so his perception is his unshakable reality. His mirror unbreakable, for the time being anyway.
My dad still has valuable lessons to pass on, even in my role as an estate planning lawyer.