Just Watching – May 2019

For how many years has R and C Resources been predicting a tsunami of Seniors and of Super-Seniors?   A billion or more?  Remember the difference?  Seniors are men and women 65 years old and aging by the day.  Super-Seniors have slipped past an 85th birthday and are still going.   Those forecasting days are now over.   Both Seniors galore and now huge clumps of Super-Seniors are here, on the scene.  The latter are 490,000 strong in the USA – and they keep on coming and coming and coming. 

I know that is true because TV programs, newspapers and magazines are doing a chicken-little-thing about it.  Of late they increasingly announce not only the raw data about the population explosion of older people but are pouring out follow-up stories about what the data will mean for the future of Social Security, medicine and a redistribution of the tax load.

Are other generational segments part of this pattern of expansion?  The good news/bad news is that they will only expand as they become Super-Seniors but they are even now a bulky presence – not growing but their numbers are not declining as fast as they once did.

While this numerical ballooning is going on the geographical limits of the USA are a constant: it remains the same.  There’s no give in our border to border or coast to coast boundaries.  We may sing as of old about wanting “land lots of land under starry skies above” but the fact is that we are fenced in and the 2019 question facing us now is just how many people can we cram into our “national phone booth” before we feel we have run out of room – which in a way is what building a fence on our southern border is all about.  That question takes on new meaning and the issue is intensified when we recognize that our population is not only growing, we are living longer as well as living longer longer.   Wow!

Do you realize that older US citizens will not only compete with immigrants from the outside but will increasingly vie with their  grandchildren and great grandchildren for leg room, tax dollars and waning resources?  Or to put it another way will we individually live so long that we will have used up our personal assets and will have little to pass on to our heirs – or pay our end of life bills? 

Impossible?  Be alert.  When you are checking out facilities that you may want to care for you in your later years they are checking you out as well.  They want to know whether your assets and projected income match your life expectancy.  That process is complicated by current calculations of how long our nation’s Social Security and Medicare reserve will last.  There are even quiet conversations about whether to intentionally limit the life of Seniors and Super-Seniors.  You better be wary when your great grandchildren offer to take you casket shopping. (Little joke…)

Impossible?  In the distant past some Eskimos reportedly parked aging and infirm grandpas on passing icebergs and watched as both float away.   Or migrating Indian tribes are said to have put immobile seniors under a tree with a jug of water and then moved on without them.  Did it happen?  What do you think?

The Chicago Tribune (4/26/19) printed a reader’s response to one of their earlier articles entitled, “Elderly Are Not Throwaways”.  The reader asked why stories about the contributions of select outstanding younger people featured, “40 Under 40” but there were never articles about outstanding Seniors and Super-Seniors who are still adding much to our world bannered, “80 over 80”.   I hope you know there are Seniors and Super-Seniors aplenty who every day make life at many levels a wondrous thing.  I watch them do their magic week after week at Trinity Lutheran Church in Roselle and at Windsor Manor in Carol Stream, Illinois.  The sad thing about their grand ministry is twofold:  Many of the 40-under-40 don’t realize the value and importance of what the 80-over-80 are offering and many of the 80-over-80 don’t understand how valuable and important the way they “live and move and have their being” really is. 

One of the ways that I put the post-90 years into proper context is by re-reading what an inspired “someone” penned long ago about how life changes surface with age.  It looks to me as if he was an “over-80” type of guy who spelled out in Ecclesiastes 12 (especially verses 1-7) what later life can be like.  Basically things about aging haven’t changed much over the centuries.  I discovered as much on Good Friday last when as I got out of bed.  My right leg hurt like heaven and it wouldn’t support me.  After limping around throughout Easter, during which time I came to find out you had to be at death’s door in order to see a doctor, I met with an orthopedist on Monday and had an X-ray.  Diagnosis?  90 years of walking-running-jumping-twisting had worn out the cartilage in my knee and it was down to a painful bone-on-bone reality.  In the days of Ecclesiastes there wasn’t much to be done about something like that given life expectancy then.  But in 2019 it called for me to produce my health insurance and Medicare cards, completing about a dozen pages of forms followed by four successive shots of something into my knee, a measurement for a knee brace and the medical opinion that the whole knee might have to be surgically replaced in time.  All of which is to say medical care 2,000 years after Christ was much different from that which was available1,000 years before His birth. 

That little isolated narrative was true not only about a worn out knee joint.  I also could tell you tales about dealing with cataracts, with cancers of all kinds, with encroaching macular degeneration and aches and pains yet to be identified.   All of which would have been avoided if I had died at a more reasonable age, like 45 or 50 – as did most people in the past.  But Mordecai’s reminder to Esther that she had been put into the world “for such a time as this” fits my world, too.  Only I’m hearing them at 90, creaky parts and all.  I’m not someday going to become a Super-Senior.  I am one.  

You?  Where are you in God’s chronicled order of things?  And given that all of us may have some, many or all of the much used and often abused parts Ecclesiastes enumerates, what are we to do?  We aren’t dead.  Super-Seniors have to cope with all kinds of 21st century challenges like shaky memory, limited hearing-vision-taste-touch, weak grip and so forth and so forth.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not complaining.  By now I should be used to dealing with change.  I came into this world unable to speak, to count or throw a ball.   But I somehow learned to do all that and am now coming to understand that what I can “do” will come and go with age.  That’s some of what Mordecai and Ecclesiastes reminds me.  Doing comes and goes.  What is of greater importance to Super-Seniors and any heading in that direction and is more important than what I can do and not do is who I am – beginning with being one who is redeemed of the Lord and as such a child of God.

All that notwithstanding what can I do even now in my increasingly limited condition?  Given who I am, where and with whom I now live Walter Foss’s life goal is tailored to my life and within my reach: “Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend of man.”  My daily challenge as a redeemed child of God is to be what He called me to be – where I am.  But I never imagined I’d still be at it at 90.

Yet here Audie and I are still reaching out to others.