I’ve known three or four people who lived to 100 and beyond, including my partner’s father, who died at 102. What they all had in common was what I’d characterize as “emotional health.” They were good natured, resilient, positive, optimistic and forward looking.
My partner’s father, an Irish immigrant, ate bacon and eggs for breakfast every morning of every day of his life (as I saw, and as I was told). He didn’t smoke, though, and he liked walking around his Long Island town long before walking was “in.” In fact, he was thought somewhat eccentric for doing so.
When I met him, he was 100 and the most easy-going person I’d ever encountered. The second person I knew who lived to 100 was the mother of an old friend. Her husband had been killed in the Holocaust and she and my friend, who was a child at the time, went to England and started a new life. My friend’s mother was also an upbeat, optimistic person who had a smile and a welcome for everyone. These characteristics, along with a sense of humor and a gift for contentment, plus meaningful social connections, help one to live a long and relatively happy life.
Of course, there’s no guarantee. Genetics and accidents play a role; bad luck can come to anyone. Illness lurks around every corner. But from what I’ve seen myself and heard from others, these are personality traits that the oldest Americans seem to share.
I’ve been getting notices on various websites that “Your Browser is Out of Date. Please Update Your Browser.” Well, I’ve got news. I’m out of date, and please don’t keep telling me to update my browser. It just makes me mad. I like my browser just fine. My old desktop does what I need it to do, and that’s all I want. Okay, maybe it’s a bit slow, but I can use my e-mail, Google illnesses and stalk old acquaintances on Facebook. What more could I want?
I’m appalled by the stories I hear from friends and acquaintances about the medical situation for elders. In my women’s group, two people asked for recommendations for internists who would take Medicare. They were told by many offices that no new Medicare patients were being seen. They are convinced that their age is the reason, the idea being that old people need more medical help and will overload the doctor’s schedule with low paying Medicare reimbursement.
How sad. How awful. I’m lucky to have found a wonderful doctor who does take my Medicare, but not too long ago I was searching for a specialist and it took quite a while to find someone who did take regular Medicare. Again, how very sad. Of course doctors need to make a living, but is it all about the buck? Where is the feeling for helping people, the moral sense that medicine is not all about what insurance a person has? I suppose I’m being naïve, but when I heard my friends’ stories, I admit I was shocked. They’d spent hours on the phone trying to find a new doctor (both of theirs had retired) and were still searching as of the time I offered the name of my compassionate Internist.
I recently read an article in The New York Times about what married gay couples call each other. Do they like to call each other husband, wife, wusband, hersband or husfriends? I have another conundrum. I’ve been with my male partner for 16 years, and I still don’t know how to refer to him. Significant Other is too long. Good friend hardly describes him. Paramour implies an illicit relationship. I usually say “partner,” but somehow I get in that he’s male or mention his name. I have absolutely nothing against gay relationships, but I am not gay and prefer people to know that I’m in a male/female relationship. Call me old-fashioned, but I am what I am. We’re all allowed to identify ourselves as anything we wish to these days, and I am an old, heterosexual female who chose not to marry again after having done so a few times, producing two children and four grandchildren. I do wish that English had a good word for my type of relationship, but it doesn’t seem to. All suggestions are welcome.