Friday, April 01, 2011

Increasing Vulnerabilities

As one who has witnessed and been acutely aware of this process of aging ever since I was born (my father was 50), I've never been fully convinced that increasing dependency -- and codependency, and the vulnerabilities they entail, are not to a great part learned behaviors, and culturally accepted, if not embraced, as the prototype for aging in the future. Obviously, it is a dismal prospect for any society, in which the work of the young and able, are increasingly to take care of the old and disabled, and the energies and resources are drained and overwhelmed in this way. That is not a sustainable society and future -- but a dystopian one, because we fail to envision meaningful, productive and vibrant lives beyond work (and retirement).

We teach the kids how to be grown up, and the young people how to be adults, but there is no recommendation for the seniors beyond travel, golf, and "normal aging," until one can no longer do them, and then there are no further challenges that require them to maintain and enhance their responsiveness. So quite predictably, people eventually become entirely dependent -- in the various ways.

While working in caregiving and with caregivers, I often noted that a person made a "fatal" decision that doomed them for the rest of their lives -- like breaking a hip, and then failing to move into a residence that would re-enable them to live without the handicap of living in a perilous home built on many levels, that trapped them in their homes -- yet they would never consider selling their homes because they wanted to die in that house. And so a whole bunch of caregivers had to be deployed to enable that fatal decision.

And then there were those who believed it was the doctors' sole responsibility to make them well, while they continued to overeat and do no exercise -- because it was the doctor's responsibility to make them well -- because that's what their medical insurance was paying for. Of course these are the worst cases, but only to the worst degree, of people who are increasingly brought up in a society to become increasingly dependent on government, the health care system, experts or union presidents, to do all their thinking and talking for them, for the benefit of unlimited health care and now, long-term care as their primary benefits.

But we see some people at 60,70,80, 90, who don't age in that familiar pattern, and they should be studied more, as the prototypes that work, rather than the ones that are drawing increasing funds for a future that doesn't -- and is unsustainable, with its increasing problems that multiply as that generation grows disproportionately larger. That is the crisis of the present times -- manifested in these many ways, all lobbying for more funding from a stagnant pool of resources.


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