The reality of Aging
The realization we are all going to be “old” someday, G-d willing, is usually a thought placed under layers of other more eminent and relevant ideas. However, when walking through a nursing home this thought quickly surfaces faster than the speed of light. One notices each resident’s room is adorn with photos of the very lives they created generation upon generation. There most always is a black and white photo of a man in military uniform that catches your attention, and can be used as a starting point for conversation.
The elderly individual varies in their ability to interact with you; some diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia and are unable to accurately answer questions, but some elderly individuals are in good health and can give you their whole life story, whether you ask for it or not. Strangely enough both of these individuals impact you the same. The deep wrinkles on their face are indicative of the many expressions felt in their lifetime from happiness, sorrow, fright, to excitement, and you truly begin to wonder what kind of life they had prior to coming here; how many kids? Homemaker or serviceman? Do they remember the depression and WW2? the Holocaust? They become a non-published version of a history book in their own right.
Further, the elderly person with Alzheimer’s dementia gives you a few extra thoughts to ponder. Thoughts such as, what a challenge for their family to see their loved one without the very memories that makes them who they are… and what if this would happen to me? Or someone dear to me? This is truly a hard disease not only for the patient but for those who love them.
It is the circle of life to age and to die, yet feeling like one is going to “get old” one day seems unreal and I am certain it did to the very people I saw. Maybe living our life like we are “aging” each day would afford us the perspective of doing the “things” that really matter to us, and with those that matter to us most. For certain, we are all on a time clock never knowing when the alarm will go off, only hoping it will not be today. So to age is a blessing- It was an invaluable experience to have met these individuals over the course of my geriatric rotation and I can confidently say the realization I will be “old” someday does not have as many layers covering it as it did 4 weeks ago.