April 25, 2011

USA: For elderly, birthdays remain an achievement

AUSTIN, Minnesota / The Austin Daily Herald /  Opinion / April 25, 2011

By Wallace Alcorn

I wonder if my older readers remember how proud we were each birthday as a child. We were as proud of reaching another age as we were proud of anything, and we gladly accepted congratulations as if living another year were some kind of accomplishment. Congratulations might be more appropriately given to the parents who keep them alive. But there comes an age at which congratulations for another year are very much in order, because living another year in old age is an accomplishment indeed. The primary person responsible for good health and physical condition is the individual.

Perhaps I can say that living another year in old age is an accomplishment in deed. The deeds are self-responsible health care. There are many factors over which we have no control, and not infrequently medical professionals are as unable to get control. But there is very much we can do individually for ourselves.

In greeting (those) elderly people on their birthdays, I sometimes say something like “This is getting to be a habit” or “Keep up the good work” or “Thank you, we like you hanging around.” At our age, another birthday is an achievement of self-responsible health care and congratulations are in order.

Even the professional attention given by health care providers depends much upon self-care by patients and honest cooperation with the providers. Some people delay seeing a physician until it has become too late for fully effective treatment. Sometimes the excuse is saving a few bucks—and then incurring thousands to complete the task. A scandalously common excuse is that something wrong might be found. Will you excuse a well deserved duh?

When some do go, they lie to their physician. They actually tell lies to him or her in reply to medical inquiry. Professionalism means to be morally non-judgmental and to be fully dedicated to healing. Be truthful even if it embarrasses or hurts, because you will hurt a whole lot more if you’re not. They lie about having taken prescribed medication or following medical directives. Such people need not so much a primary care physician as a psychiatrist (which smart remark does not represent the nature of psychiatry).

Some have asked me how a person as busy as I am can afford to take 10 hours a week for workouts at the Y. Frankly, I asked myself this question. But I came to understand the time spent to be an investment that yields dividends at a very high rate of ROI.

Walking, pulling weights, and swimming are activities enjoyable in themselves. Well, alright, they can be pretty boring and one does wonder how immediately productive they are. The scenery in walking 21 times around the indoor track isn’t nearly as enjoyable as when I was still able to run in the country. Back-and-forth 20 times in the pool isn’t much better. But you learn how to use the time mentally so that the activities do become enjoyable. I use the time for thinking and praying. (My personal theology allows me to pray with open eyes.)

Better to spend this reasonably enjoyable time now than months or years in severely unpleasant treatment later. That may come anyway, but I push it back as far as I can.

Because of my active faith in my Redeemer who created me in the first place, I am confident of going to heaven when I can do no more to stay alive physically. Because of my faith in what the Bible reveals about heaven, I know that, once arrived, I’ll be incredibly pleased. All these theological concepts notwithstanding, I will go toward heaven kicking and screaming. I doubt not that heaven will be yet better. But, for now, I like it here, and I intend to stay awhile.

© 2011, The Austin Daily Herald