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Vieraskieliset / In-english

Blog: What is it like to grow old?

Vieraskieliset / In-english
13.11.2020 9.00

Juttua muokattu:

11.11. 14:04
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You can’t re­al­ly desc­ri­be it.

So­me­ti­mes it is qui­te in­te­res­ting.

It is ex­ci­ting in many ways.

I have been a child, an ado­les­cent and a mid­d­le-aged lady, and I re­ti­red many ye­ars ago. So what? Each re­a­der of this blog has been a child and is now at some ol­der age. Gro­wing old and real old age are so­met­hing qui­te dif­fe­rent.

I re­mem­ber an old joke about a poor boy who told so­me­o­ne that he li­ked sal­mon chow­der:

– Sal­mon chow­der is re­al­ly good.

– Have you ea­ten it?

– No, but I saw a guy in the mar­ket who was ea­ting it.

I think this joke could al­so be ap­p­lied to the pro­cess of gro­wing old.

– It is ter­rib­le to be old.

– Have you been old?

– No, but I saw an old per­son in a re­al­ly poor con­di­ti­on.

There are many be­ne­fits to re­ti­re­ment that I could not have even dre­a­med of when I was yo­un­ger. I can take a train at half price and get dis­counts to many pla­ces. So­me­o­ne (usu­al­ly) gi­ves me their seat in the bus – and if I thank them, I get a lo­ve­ly smile in re­turn.

I don’t care to hear about the be­ne­fits of he­alt­hy me­als any more, or the need for ext­ra vi­ta­mins, or the dan­gers of ex­ces­si­ve salt in­ta­ke. I pre­fer to lis­ten to those wise pe­op­le who say that when you are over se­ven­ty, you can eat anyt­hing you like. You can­not say that to a gro­wing yo­uth. So that me­ans old age is al­so a pri­vi­le­ge!

Old age is na­tu­ral­ly more than just pri­vi­le­ges. I could hide be­hind my age, but I am af­raid my me­mo­ry or eva­lu­a­ti­ve abi­li­ty might fail me. Pe­op­le so­me­ti­mes say – pro­bab­ly to hu­mor me – that they can­not be­lie­ve I am 80 ye­ars old, being so smart and wha­te­ver. I would like to tell those pe­op­le about the things I am not smart in and for which I need help and ad­vi­ce (but tact­ful­ly, ple­a­se!). If you need some skill gro­wing old, you need even more skill com­mu­ni­ca­ting with old pe­op­le.

It is good I don’t need to keep up­da­ted about things, but I do get po­si­ti­ve feed­back for sho­wing my­self know­led­ge­ab­le about some to­pi­cal events. That used to be dif­fe­rent: I was em­bar­ras­sed if I did not know or un­ders­tand so­met­hing, or at le­ast I tried co­ver up my ig­no­ran­ce.

I pre­su­me there is no re­a­son for me to be as­ha­med if I mix up two ye­ars like 1986 and 1968. From the view­point of the uni­ver­se, it is a very mi­nor fai­lu­re (though I ful­ly un­ders­tand it is not a mi­nor fai­lu­re for so­me­o­ne born in 1986). I al­so mix up things that I should be as­ha­med about.

I re­mem­ber si­tu­a­ti­ons where pe­op­le have made fun about things said by an old per­son. I may have been in­vol­ved in that kind of jo­king my­self. I feel as­ha­med. Does that mean pe­op­le are now laug­hing at my words in the same way? There would su­re­ly be cau­se for that.

Our bo­dies are gro­wing old. When I paid for my lunch in a res­tau­rant, the cas­hier gave me se­ni­or dis­count wit­hout my as­king for it. When I as­ked her how she knew I was re­ti­red, she burst out laug­hing and al­most could not stop.

Anot­her time my hus­band and I had a 11-ye­ar-old girl in the ride.

She as­ked us where we would go af­ter we had drop­ped her off at her school.

– To the gym.

We he­ard a lo­ve­ly gig­g­le:

– Eigh­ty-ye­ar-olds in the gym.

It was our turn to laugh. Was she thin­king about us doing cartw­heels and pi­rou­et­tes?

It is hard to re­cog­ni­ze chan­ge in my­self, though there are signs about it all over the place. My sen­ses are get­ting less keen. My near vi­si­on be­gan to de­te­ri­o­ra­te when I was on­ly for­ty, I lost my sen­se of smell when I fell on icy ground, and I seem to have in­he­ri­ted im­pai­red he­a­ring from my an­ces­tors. I thought a he­a­ring aid would help, but it on­ly ma­kes the backg­round noi­se lou­der. I can dis­cern some fre­qu­en­cies qui­te cle­ar­ly, but ot­hers get mud­d­led or squ­ea­ky. My brain tries to help, but the out­co­me is an ext­ra­or­di­na­ry jumb­le of things dred­ged up by my sub­cons­ci­ous. To be on the safe side, I pre­fer to keep qui­et.

I al­so keep qui­et when my ina­bi­li­ty to re­cog­ni­ze fa­ces (pro¬so¬pag¬no¬sia) gets the bet­ter of me. Pro¬so¬pag-no¬sia is a com­mon con­di­ti­on that of­ten wor­sens with age and cau­ses a lot of em­bar­ras­s­ment: I re­cog­ni­ze pe­op­le poor­ly or not at all ba­sed on what they look like.

This is a real prob­lem in big ser­vi­ces. If the ot­her per­son does not suf­fer from the same prob­lem, they may feel of­fen­ded and make wrong as­sump­ti­ons. But if I have the cou­ra­ge to ask who the per­son is, and if he or she ans­wers my qu­es­ti­on and does not make me gu­ess, we usu­al­ly end up ha­ving a good time to­get­her.

Me­mo­ries are a mar­ve­lous tre­a­su­re for an el­der­ly per­son. Ba­sed on my long per­so­nal his­to­ry, I can make con­nec­ti­ons bet­ween things that I pre­vi­ous­ly could not. I feel that I re­al­ly have so­met­hing to of­fer to yo­un­ger pe­op­le, and many are hap­py about that.

When I had a me­mo­ry test made for the first time, the qu­es­ti­ons see­med stu­pid: What ye­ar / month / day of the week do we have now? In which town / count­ry are we now? But I un­ders­tand now that such qu­es­ti­ons are es­sen­ti­al in­di­ca­tors of a per­son’s me­mo­ry.

No mat­ter how po­si­ti­ve I try to feel about my­self, my dar­ker side so­me­ti­mes ta­kes over and brings up some scary pros­pects: what if I will end up ha­ving a me­mo­ry di­sor­der and be­co­me a stub­born bur­den to my fa­mi­ly and so­cie­ty, and no-one has the pa­tien­ce to deal with this prick­ly bund­le of comp­le­xes.

At those mo­ments my ligh­ter side re­minds me about the com­for­ting pros­pect of faith: the num­ber of days of my life have al­re­a­dy been coun­ted. There are neit­her too many, nor too few, and each of them has a pur­po­se – for me or for my dear ones.

Text: Kirs­ti Wal­le­nius-Rii­hi­mä­ki

Trans­la­ti­on: Sirk­ka-Lii­sa Lei­no­nen

You will find the ori­gi­nal blog post here.

4.12.2020

Si­nun puo­lee­si, Her­ra, minä kään­nyn. Ju­ma­la­ni, si­nun apuu­si minä luo­tan.

En­hän luo­ta tur­haan, et­hän an­na vi­hol­li­sil­le­ni sitä rie­mua, et­tä he voit­ta­vat mi­nut! Ps. 25:1–2

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