Beware the Automatic Transition...
By John McLellan
Life is all about making transitions. And, with every transition, there comes a sobering bundle of responsibilities, concessions and adjustments.
My first conscious transition, like all of us at the forefront of the “boomer” contingent, started when I entered kindergarten somewhere between the end of the Truman administration and the beginning of the Eisenhower years. I was leaving behind the warmth and security of the crib and making the considerably ominous transition to the world of regimentation and schedules. Life was never going to be the same. (Sitting next to the cutest girl in the class did, however, keep me onboard until I was able to adjust.) From here on I more or less progressed through the elementary and junior high years in normal fashion until I entered high school. This was when I began actively working toward my first meaningful (to me, anyway) transition. In my mind, it was time for the fun to really begin!
I could not wait to get my driver’s license when I finally reached 16. Then, I could make that transition from pedestrian to king of the highways, legally, and with the cautious blessing of my parents. Of course, like all of us at the time, I was blissfully unaware of another, darker transition that was invisibly stapled to that first driver’s license. I had made the transition from the comfortable world of anonymity to the stark world of statistical reality. As I proudly motored down the road for my first “solo” in the family station wagon. that fine spring day in April 1964, I was oblivious to the fact that I was, at the same time, now a card carrying member of the statistically most dangerous age group of the entire driving population. I shared the dubious honors of being among the most frequent causes, and the most numerous victims of highway fatalities. A fact that was vociferously hammered home by every insurance purveyor this side of Neptune.
Reaching the age of 18, in spite of the threatening and dire predictions of the auto insurers, I was still alive and well… and subject to yet another transitional mixed bag. I was not only old enough to vote, and in some states, old enough to drink watered down beer, but I was now also old enough to die for my country. Or, so I was pointedly told when I made my mandatory registration for the military draft. Overall, the transition to 18 was great, but there were some rather rude elements to be sure. Arriving at age 21, I was finally entitled to the rights and privileges of adulthood, all of which would accompany me for the duration of my time on this planet. I could walk in any bar and order real booze, vote in any election for whatever candidate I favored, and I could buy automobiles and real estate solely on the strength of my own signature. I had the world by the proverbial tail. At least I did until it occurred to me that the next age milestone was 35! THIRTY-FREAKIN’ FIVE!!! Half way to 70!! It would turn out to be a very quick, productive fourteen years! By 35 I had graduated from college, married, bought a home, and fathered three children! Nothing was unusual here. Pretty much par for the majority of my post-war boomer peers.
Reaching 40 came much too quickly for my taste and it brought with it some unpleasant baggage. I had to adapt to using reading glasses. I noticed some arthritic tingling in certain joints. Some days it was awfully tempting to sneak a nap at lunchtime. For the first time I became aware of my own mortality. Having read obits of a few of my high school classmates who had already passed away, much too young, I felt a certain degree of accomplishment at making it this far.
If 40 came quickly, then age 50 set a new supersonic record! My mother passed away after a twenty-year struggle with Parkinson’s, the last nine of which were spent in a nursing home. During this same time period, my wife’s mother and dad were both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My father in-law got along quite well and died of a heart attack well before the disease greatly affected him. My mother in -law, on the other hand, lived on for nearly 12 years. She lived with us for a year and a half before moving to an assisted living center where she eventually resided in the Dementia Wing until her death.
Now in my early sixties, I was enduring excruciating arthritic pain in my right knee and, while the pain in my left knee was less, it was rapidly catching up to the right. I underwent two total knee replacements, put myself through a rigid therapy regimen and regained normal, pain free functions of both legs. Within a year my wife had both hips replaced. It dawned on both of us that, with all our parents gone, we were now the old folks. Aging was overtaking us just as it had done with our parents. Like most of our generation, the last thing we wanted to do was become a burden to our children.
Now well into our seventies, we are investigating home care insurance (long-term care insurance). I wish we’d started looking ten years ago. We’ve found that there are not very many venues out there that offer the info we are looking for as our biological clocks keep ticking.
Day-to-day life is still good. We camp regularly in our travel trailer, spend quality time with children and grandchildren and both pursue engaging hobbies. In a perfect world our lives could go on this way for a long time yet. All the same, life would be much gentler without the worries associated with needing elder care and the possibility of having to make a final transition to a nursing home.
If you are concerned about being prepared for the time when you will need assistance in your home with daily activities, contact Vibrant Aging Solutions at 1 (833) 263-2323 and leave a message for one of our Longevity Concierges to start exploring long-term care options today!
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Summer Jackson, the author of this Age-Friendly Blog is an advocate for aging, and she insists that we all can live an unprecedented quality of life as we age. She believes that accomplishing this requires educating people of all ages, and involving people, organizations, and community leaders in a shared process. Read on. You will find her posts to be insightful, fun, and inspiring for people of all ages...
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