Inquiry: The Fate of Aging

Apothercary - 1913

by LJ Frank

The Voices

  • “I can’t afford to be old.” A man who just turned seventy-nine emphatically stated and worked odd jobs to survive. “America is a youth leaning culture, television commercials aside about the blessing of being older. It’s the sum total of insecurity. And lonely at times regardless of what the American Association of Retired Persons suggest and all their fucking tips. I can’t afford their membership fee, or the insurances offered. It’s all bullshit. Everything has a fee attached. It’s all about money.”
  • “Old people become more selfish because they don’t have as much. They are worried.” An older woman said to me as she booked a flight to Florida.
  • “I joined a senior’s group, but I got tired of hearing everyone talking about their recent operation or about their kids and grandkids. La-de-dah. Mine are all dead. Am I bitter? For a long time. Damn right. The anger helped me get up every morning to see the sunrise. That’s the only blessing I had. What was the purpose of it all? I now have an intimate friendship with another woman. That helps, especially when you don’t have any financial resources, and sex if you’re lucky, is your outlet during a pandemic.”
  • “I live day to day,” the elderly man in his eighties said. “I have one good meal a day. I snack the rest of the time. My government pension is used up. I don’t go to the dentist or doctor anymore. I don’t have much money left. Some days I get religious but mostly there’s an emptiness inside. I hate nursing homes. My wife died in one. It’s a rest stop before death. Wish I had the courage to kill myself. Perhaps that day is coming soon.”
  • “My husband left me money to live on. His death was a mixed blessing otherwise we’d both be living in the street. His company sucked the life out of him. It was sad. I miss him. America is for the youth and the greedy.”
  • “America focuses too much on the young in all media. Young people are not taught to respect their elders. In Europe you’ll often find three generations living under one roof; helping with childcare, meals, etc. Everyone has something to give, share or teach one another. People do not fear aging because they are of use. Parents are supported in their income producing years, young people learn appropriate behavior and responsibilities for their age. All is life. Only when you are under three is it natural for you to believe the universe revolves around you. As an adult, only narcissists believe that. It seems our technology has introduced the Age of Narcissism. The screen acts as a mirror of what someone wants to be, not who they are. The digital age has made people fall in love with their projected, photoshopped avatars and fear others will not like the “real” them behind the persona. I do not have children or grandchildren, I work in the arts, my hair, makeup are contemporary, and I’ve always driven a sports car. I’ve been told I’m a cross between Mrs. Emma Peel and David Copperfield. I say this to make a point there is nothing in my deportment or attitude that says, “old person”. Still, I am invisible to millennials. They do not look at me, or say hello, even as a response to a polite acknowledgement. I thought it was age at first, but I realized it is the effect of Trump and the Republican party. People are hungry. They are afraid of losing their homes, apartments, of being buried alive in school debt and the health of the planet they are inheriting. Social Media has become a hollow substitute for real human affection and friendship. It is hard for everyone but the 1% right now. There is no middle class. You are either rich or poor. I will keep making eye contact and keep smiling when someone’s eyes meet mine”. It’s up to all of us to create a safe space for one another. We will need each other to survive.”
  • “I’m sixty-nine, I can’t afford my prescription drugs anymore, this past year my RX increased in price. I’m paying over $100 a month in RX. The American dream is utter nonsense. I worked hard for what? My son committed suicide last month. He had his college degree but has been out of work for two years. Working part-time at Starbucks wasn’t enough for him.”
  • My husband and I did very well. He was an attorney and died last year at seventy-five. His insurance policies helped me get a nice condominium. I have money. I can’t complain. And I still have a pretty good companion and love life.”
  • “I was born in 1933. I am tired of the aches and pains from working on an assembly line. I think attitudes stem from within and in our environment. Washington is a goddamn cesspool. It wasn’t cleaned up or drained. Just more deception. I don’t have it better than I did. It’s gotten worse under this lamebrain calling himself a president. Richard Nixon believed in universal health care as did other presidents both Republican and Democrats. Harry Truman said socialism is a scare tactic, without it we wouldn’t have social security, water, education, parks, etc. I worked at Ford’s in River Rouge south of Detroit. I’m tired of the b*s* of people who had a silver spoon placed in their mouth. I think it’s too late to reverse course for this country.”
  • “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” ~Mark Twain. I love this quote. I don’t mind the aging factor, after all, we are the generation that was never going to get old.  Getting old can be an existential crisis.  Old is discarded, used up, given away, thrown away. Aging is something entirely different.  We age wine for a finer blend, cheese for a better taste and with age comes wisdom. Aging is a largely mysterious process. The aging process may derive from changes occurring in parallel in different tissues due to intrinsic cellular mechanisms or changes in one tissue may be predominant. Some authors argue that aging is located within one tissue such as the brain (e.g., Mattson et al., 2002) while others defend that aging originates in all tissues (e.g., Kowald and Kirkwood, 1994). Some researchers even argue that one type of cells such as bone marrow stem cells may be crucial (Geiger and Van Zant, 2002Van Zant and Liang, 2003). “Big bang” reproduction demonstrates how one particular system, often the endocrine system, can regulate (see Gosden, 1996 for arguments) ……I am aging and I am aging well. I know I’m lucky. With age comes an authenticity, a unique pursuit of happiness, one without fear of being openly authentic, because being so can be intimidating to some.”
  • “My body is older than my brain. I’ve had a heart attack and subsequently, other issues. I’m sixty-three. my wife died of the Covid virus and my daughter and her child died in a maternity ward. I don’t have a good pension, and now, no health-insurance. I lost my job. I’m extremely in debt. I work part-time. I’m pre-judged by my age. I have a college degree that’s worthless. Fuck capitalism. I have no faith in a God or other invisible spirits.”
  • “Plan ahead or don’t and die young while you still have a job, is my motto. I was lucky. I didn’t marry and had no children. So aging was a process of staying toned in body and mind. I just entered my seventh decade and still need to work to be able to have a few nice things and my annual trip to Key West. I lived on a boat for a few years and walked to work. And I visited a casino. My brother got married, had an excellent but stressful political job and died at fifty-three. I live each day as if it was my last. Aging doesn’t bother me as long as I keep it in perspective and can stay healthy.”
  • “I used to think science was allowing people to live too long. I think the current pandemic and future ones, along with climate change, high technologies and war, will resolve that concern while disrupting everything. We need science to survive and learn and grow. Otherwise it will bite us in the ass. But I think in some ways, unlike the Age of Enlightenment we’re living in an Age of Dis-Enlightenment and an Age of Unreason, based on things we see in front of our eyes. I have conservative values, but I am disgusted with the childlike narcissistic greed I see on the national stage and around me. I am not surprised by the mafia don we call the President and his ubiquitous fascistic deceptions. He has a cult following. Fuck their ignorance. These are exceedingly dangerous times. As far as I am concerned, my fate is eighty years of age. As a woman who considers herself in shape, physically and mentally, I volunteer for things.  I want to have sex with a sixty-year-old man on my eightieth birthday. And then I can say – that’s all folks.”