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A reader's view of aging

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A while back I received an email from a reader, Jim, in response to a couple of my blog entries,. One was regarding my entry titled: Nursing home and aging. I regarded his response thought-provoking enough to publish it here in its entirety. With thanks to Jim for taking the time to share his views and allowing me to publish it.

Hello again Robert. I had two comments about two different blogs so I split them up rather than lump them together.

I had mentioned that I first read your blog about whois. But as I read your blog about nursing homes it effected me more. (Even to the point to do spelling checks this time!)

You were commenting on how your aunt's husband said "Age is just the number. What counts is how old your heart feels." and you felt strongly that you would trade wisdom and experience off in a second for youth. I appreciate that it's a brutally honest statement for you, but I don't think you've ever really asked someone who was 90 and in the throes of senility if they wanted the same. I think they'd want to be in full command of their facilities and feel good, but they'd appreciate all seasons of life they've been in. I've talked to many people over the age of 60 and they 95% of the time feel the same. I'm 51 and in the middle of my life. My mother died of cancer at 64 and my father lived to be 82 with no health problems. And in all those extremes, no one wanted to be young, they just wanted to be healthy.

Some times I imagine what it would be like to have a time machine and go back and make all the perfect choices in life. To choose better jobs than the bad ones I've had or avoid dating the women who were trouble, or buy eBay stock before it skyrocketed. But I'd be married to Angelina Jolie by now and miserable that she's so high maintenance and weird! And I wouldn't have my beautiful and exceptional daughter. Life is a journey, and we can't skip the Atlantic Ocean if we're traveling to the Bahamas. You're just in that mid life crisis I want to be back in my 20s kind of thing. Don't worry, it'll pass when you hit 45.

You ask "why do so many of us strive to stay as young as possible, as long as possible?" Why do you wash your car? You'd have more time for other things if you let it get dirty or rust or filthy. Do you like how it looks when it's clean? Does it last longer if you give it oil changes? Welcome to planet earth. It's a health thing, not a compulsive obsession. The plastic surgery-a-holics are another story, but I'm not one, are you? I rest my case.

When we grow old, we don't lose our agility or resilience or resolve. They just modify. I've had all the time I need to achieve my lofty goals, all but one. And I'm only 51. I've played guitar professionally in clubs and bars, been a DJ on two radio stations, been and still am an engineer, took helicopter and fixed wing flying lessons and been a pilot, wrote comedy for cable TV, have patents of things I've invented, have a wonderful family and life, and people tell me I look 10 years younger. Do you know why? Because "age is just the number. What counts is how old your heart feels". And it shows in our health if we have the right attitude. Take the advice of what the perfect toast said to the burnt one: "Lighten up".

-Jim

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