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The myopic view of aging
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
A 92-year-old woman recently moved into our local retirement home. She sat alone in the dining room. I moved to her table with my dessert and introduced myself.

Her husband died after 67 years of marriage.

I offered words of comfort overwhelmed by the thought of her loss. I asked what has it been like after so many years together. I was bewildered by the reply, “delightful, blissful.”

In my misguided sympathy, what psychologist William James called the psychologist’s fallacy. She further said how she had endured decades of an unhappy marriage with an ill-tempered verbally abusive man.

I was wrong, I thought, she had not fallen into the abyss. She was glad to have finally won a measure of freedom, to make the best of her remaining years. She threw herself into new activities and relationships.

Dr. Marc E. Agronin asks his patients in their 80s and 90s, what it is really like to be old. Responses, he said, were unexpected: “I forgot I was so old,” a 90-year-old patient told me. She then excused herself to be on time for bingo and then a visit to a health club for exercise.

This age-centrism is particularly pervasive in people’s attitude toward retirement and nursing home for the aged, that life seems to end, that it is loveless and lonely, with death hovering close by.

Younger generations of people seem to refuse to see the needs for intimacy. Our youth-orientated culture equates love and sex. Dr. Agronin states that love is endless and expressed in many ways. There is a cost to this myopic view of aging. We think of aches and pains, we fail to embrace wisdom and meaning that only age can bring.

It is the wisdom of the aged who understands most about the life in which he is placed.
Irving Shaw
March 10, 2010