Thursday, February 20, 2014

When I’m 93

Sisters Hannah and Sylvia
Few could tell the story of their 93 years – and counting – as simply and beautifully as Roger Angell.

His piece in The New Yorker -- This Old Man; Life in the nineties – invites the reader into his world with three words: “Check me out.” His wry observations of aches and medical adventures over the years quickly turn to the people, places, and pets who have made an impact on his life. A life well lived and well told.

My mother-in-law and her sister both lived into their mid-90s, and while their last few years were not trouble-free, the women were easy to be around. Neither wanted to be a bother, and they were gracious and thankful for the ongoing support of family and friends. 

Earlier this month, I attended a birthday party for an 80-year-old. When I walked through the door of the Philadelphia Rock Gym, where the event was held, the guest of honor was hanging from the ceiling. I wasn’t surprised. I had seen him do that same climb at his 75th birthday party.

Granted, these are not typical examples of aging. But they do exist. That's hard to remember when I'm bombarded daily with messages supposedly targeted to my age: Are you insured against catastrophic illness? Interested in moving to an adult community? Will you outlive your money?

Aunt Sylvia didn’t worry about outliving her money. She never thought she had much, and she was never extravagant. Her habit of squirreling away little bits, through payroll deduction into U.S. Savings Bonds during her working years, stood her in good stead. At some point, she totally forgot about all those bonds accumulating interest in a safety deposit box. But their discovery, in her early 90s, helped to finance her last months in a caring facility while leaving a nice inheritance for a number of family members. 

Reading Roger Angell’s story brought back memories of the 90-somethings and other seniors who have passed through and out of my life. At the same time, it reminded me to treasure those who are still hanging around.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Old (folks) news

Who needs statistics about the graying demographics of TV news watchers. The commercials tell the whole tale.

There are whole blocks of medical ads. From knee replacements to CyberKnife surgery to HurryCanes to any number of new pharmaceutical pills, creams, and injections.

The ads for prescription medications close with a long list of side effects that sound worse than the initial problem, ending in “Ask your doctor.” If I asked my doctor about everything I saw on TV, she would stop taking my calls.

The ads are so pervasive during network news programs, I keep the remote handy. At first sight of dry mouth guy, I hit mute before he opens his own dry mouth to ask, "Do you have dry maothhhh?”

Forget the erectile dysfunction ads. Couples in matching bath tubs. Couples snuggling on the front porch. Couples camping on the beach or playing around in the kitchen. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was fun to have erectile dysfunction…at least until the announcer rattles off all the possible side effects.

Forget research showing potentially misleading claims are “prevalent throughout consumer-targeted prescription and nonprescription drug advertising on television.”

Forget that, according to Popular Science, the 6:30 news slot is “a prime time frame to run drug ads—that's when old people are watching, and old people love their drugs.”

At the very least, why can’t health care companies make ads people don’t mind watching. It's not impossible. Think Super Bowl ads. Think viral video ads. Think anything but what is already being aired, because I’m blocking these ads as fast as they flicker on screen.

Rx ads almost make me nostalgic for other scream-worthy commercial categories -- like political candidates or Christmas holiday shopping.

At least the remote is my friend. Right near the oft-used mute function is the red power button. It gives such a satisfying click when it turns the TV off.