What Will Become Of Me?

I don’t want to get old.  Honestly, I might be a little bit terrified of the idea.  Now I don’t mean that I’m worried about getting older.  In general, I’m okay with that.  My parents are both in their late 60s and, for the most part, in good health (Mom did just have Hip #2 replaced, but that just means she’s well on her way to becoming a fully-functioning cyborg.) and enjoying themselves.  They travel, they’re social, and, they’re all set to enjoy their retirement years (Whenever my father decides it’s finally time to retire).

No, I’m worried about what comes after that.  I won’t claim to be the most active person in the world, but I can get around and do what I want.  I fear a loss of that freedom.  Have you been to a nursing home?  I know that, for the most part, the staff tries to do the best they can for their residents, but being at that end of your life just sucks.  I remember visits to my ex-wife’s grandfather.  He was in his 90s and only able to get from his bed to a chair where he would watch TV and then back to his bed again.  This devoutly-religious man often wondered why he was still here and why he wasn’t able to join his wife, who had died over a decade earlier.  It was truly sad to see.  I felt terrible for him, and, because we are all self-absorbed in the end, I was horrified that I could end up the same way.  Again, he was being cared for and all.  It just sucked to be that old and physically infirm.

Even more that the physical side, I fear the loss of my mental faculties.  Dementia or Alzheimer’s are bad enough, but I really don’t want to get into a situation that seems to happen with the elderly where they are scared of the world around them and certain that things are much worse than when they were younger.  Based on THIS ARTICLE, though, I may not have any choice.  We seem to be wired to view our prime years (Age 10-30) through the proverbial rose-colored glasses.  Granted, I already think those years of my life were pretty great, but things are really good for me now, too.  I just really don’t want to be in my 70s and huddled in my home in a state of near panic and waiting for FOX News to tell me what I need to be worried about this week.

(Seriously, if you ever visit me and I’m watching FOX News, call somebody.  I’ve either completely lost my mind or been replaced by an alien duplicate.)

I am generally not one to sit and complain, though, so I have been trying to think of alternatives.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many.  As of now, we all die.  I’m not sure that I want to change that.  Immortality has its own problems as Highlander and The Postmortal tell us.  I honestly don’t have a problem with dying someday.  It’s the aging part leading up to it that I’m not fond of.  Scientists are working on that part and have had some success, as THIS ARTICLE explains. 

For now, though, I have to operate under the assumption that the aging process will continue as normal.  Likewise, I have to assume that I am going to live long enough to get old.  Of course, something could always happen to me earlier, but for now let’s go with the whole “get so old that my body just can’t take it anymore” path.

I’ve already established that I don’t like that option.  What else have you got?

Um…nothing.

There are assisted suicide laws in a handful of states, but, from what I’ve gathered, those are limited to people who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease and have less than six months to live.  Old age doesn’t work on that kind of a time table.

Throughout our lives, we are able to ask all sorts of questions about our futures.  What do I want to be when I grow up?  Where do I want to live?  What kind of car do I want to drive?  Do I want to marry and spend my life with this person?  While we may not get everything we’re after, we have some agency regarding the path of our lives.

At least we do until the end. 

We can answer all sorts of questions about how we want to live.  We can even state what we want done with our remains and belongings after we’re gone, but, with very few exceptions, we cannot legally provide an answer to what should be a very basic question: “How do I want to die?”

I already know how I don’t want to die.  Wasting away in a nursing home is not on my list of things to do.  I should have other options.  This is a part of every single human’s experience, and yet in this time in which I can make choices about everything else in my existence, this is off-limits.  Instead, I could be doomed to suffering a fate that I absolutely do not want.

That just strikes me as wrong.  Hopefully by the time I’m old enough for this to be an issue, society will have changed on the subject.  Until then, though, I can’t help but be scared of what possibly awaits me.

- Alan Decker

@CmdrAJD on Twitter