July 10th, 2008

ozarque figure

Eldering; supposing I last that long; summing up...

It has been interesting to read all your comments and responses on the question of living to age ninety-nine or more. There seems to me to be a fairly solid consensus on the proposition that if you could live that long and (a) still be fit and vigorous, both physically and mentally, and (b) still be financially secure, and (c) still have a solid support network, you'd be willing. I'm not so sure, myself. Even if all those things were true. To repeat:

Being old is hard work. Even if you're healthy, your body in old age needs all sorts of tiresome tending and fooling about with. Everything you do takes half again as long as it took when you were younger. All around you, people you love are dying or going into nursing homes or losing their mental equilibrium. All around you, physical things are getting larger as you keep getting smaller. And at the moment, the events that are taking place in this world are so horrifying that it's easy for me to imagine that we're heading back to a world where physical comforts are going to be few and far between.

What keeps going through my mind is the thought of how unspeakably difficult it must have been to be an old woman in the United States before about .... oh, roughly 1900. Before it was common for the average person to have air conditioning and central heating and indoor plumbing and electricity and a telephone. Of course, there weren't as many old women then; childbirth and tuberculosis and pneumonia kept their numbers small, and the ones who made it to very old age were strong. But still .... it would have been so difficult, and so complicated. Such hard work. And I keep thinking how unspeakably difficult it must be -- right now, this minute -- to be an old woman in those parts of our world where it's still not common for the average person even to have ready access to decent water, much less air conditioning and central heating and indoor plumbing and electricity and a telephone.

I don't mean, by the way, to downplay the problems that are faced by men who live to a very old age. I'm just not intimately familiar with those problems. When I was on book tour for The Grandmother Principles, I got a lot of complaints from men. Like: "It's just as hard to be a grandfather today as it is to be a grandmother. Why didn't you write a book for grandfathers?" And I always told them that I believe a grandfathering book would have to be written by a man. The very young generations are clearly not maintaining gender distinctions in as rigid a way as in the past, but grandfathers aren't from those very young generations.

The index to the "eldering" posts/comments/responses in this journal -- including an attempt at putting together a set of Grandfather Principles -- is at
http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memories.bml?user=ozarque&keyword=Eldering&filter=all .