Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Facing Reality

It didn't exactly come as a surprise, but one of the features of senior living that I hadn't devoted much thought to is the frequency of loss among this age group. In the year since I've moved in, a few residents of Independent Living have been moved to assisted living or nursing care, and two or three others have died.

None of these people have been close friends; it's just that a semi-familiar face (in one case, a man I've worked with on a resident committee) simply disappears, and is soon mentioned in an administrative publication.

In addition to those cases, the number of people transported to the hospital after falls or other disasters is and always has been impressive. I've signed a lot of get-well cards.

Somehow, when I lived among the younger, such things seldom came to my attention. It's sad but rather different when I hear that some old acquaintance across the country has died. That somehow seems less shocking and more understandable. Of course the main shock comes when a much younger person dies. One of my younger cousins died recently of cancer, but that wasn't entirely unexpected.

Here at The Clare, many residents are in their eighties and nineties (the oldest is over 100). We 70-somethings are getting a lesson on what it means to grow old. Some residents are remarkably active, regardless of age, while some seem to gradually fade away. For some, the deterioration is obvious; for others, all seems well.

All this is a bit hard to handle. All I can do is resolve to stay as active as possible (although my main activity of writing and editing is a rather sedentery one) and remain optimistic. If I live as long as my mother did, I'll have eighteen years left, but If I had followed my father's pattern, I would have died seven years ago. I know which I prefer, but the choice is not really mine.

At any rate, I'm learning to face reality without becoming depressed. I guess that's one of the realities of senior living.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Failure of Democracy, or Why I Ignore Politics: A View from 360 BC

"His inclination was to turn his back on p0litics--it seemed altogether too hopeless a mess. He had no faith in the rule of the rich, nor any confidence in the ability of ordinary citizens. The rich, as he saw, had mostly their special interests in mind, and during the time of their regimes they had shown to what length they could go to defend the advantages of the few against the majority of ordinary people. But the rule by the many was no remedy, because ordinary people were too easily swayed by the emotional and deceptive rhetoric of ambitious politicians. Politics, in other words, seemed an irremediably corrupted affair, and all a rational person could do was to attend to personal matters, and to pursue wisdom in the privacy of one's solitude and a small circle of friends."

From Plato's The Republic, 360 BC
So what's the answer? Democracy is imperfect, but I've never observed a better, fairer system of government. Thanks to my brother, John Marshall, for alerting me to this quotation.