Saturday, November 08, 2008

As the sun sets

One of the things about growing old is, as many middle-aged person realise, is that many faculties begin to fail. Not only that, some faculties are probably never going to be restored, like your tooth. Once an adult tooth is lost, it is lost. Of course there are dentures to cover up for the awful look otherwise, but dentures are still not the real thing.

What else fails?

The eyes for another. You may have 20/20 vision all your life, but when you hit the big 4-O, you discover how necessary reading glasses become, especially in the light of the night. Then your language also begins to fail. Where once you could have been a spelling bee, you struggle increasingly to remember how to put together a word - that erstwhile ability to spell anything deserts you.

And don't many of us find our legs failing us, even at the relatively 'young' age of 42. Suddenly, Glucosamine is more familiar to you than Panadol or even Vitamin C. Your hair also becomes perceptibly thinner at the top. Your scalp is more visible at the top although your beard and nostril hair never seem to stop growing.

Of course, you look rougher by the months. Ever deeper lines appear on your face as your hand look shinier by the year, not because of the lotions you might have applied, but that's how aging skin seem to look. You also notice black spots appearning on your face and hands and arms. No, that's not the black plague, its just cells dying.

Worst of all, your memories also begin to fail. What happened last year this time, or 3 months ago, or even 2 weeks ago. You struggle to remember and are dismayed that that part of your life is not history, but an emptiness, an inexistence that eludes you, perhaps forever now.

All these gets progressively worse. Yes, modern medicine can mitigate a lot of the ill-effects of aging. Just look at the roaring business that personal care shops such as Watsons, Guardian and the Body Shop, and even Spas and Gyms do and you realise that you are in the wrong business otherwise.

But that curative ability of modern medicine becomes a problem eventually, when medicine is used to prop one up at the gates of heaven (or hell, whichever the case may be). Advanced Medical Directives (AMD), Euthansia, these controversial terms, take on real meaning. Did you remember to let your loved ones know how you prefer to be treated, when you have lost all your communications faculties? Would you have preferred that your loved ones stop wasting expensive medicine just so that you can continue lying on a bed, doing not much more than being fed through a plastic tube? Or worst, when you, an adult, begin to behave no differently from a baby, remembering nothing, no one, and defecating anywhere and everywhere because, like a child, you have lost all control of your bowel movements and your sense of shame. You cannot instruct anyone to kill you because death is no longer in your vocabulary.

Can someone do you in, legally, since you no longer know better, and probably would have preferred it? The answer is simple, isn't it? Or is it?

Image source: Author: Mary Thorman

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