When defiance is not enough to beat old age

Q: My dad is one of those stubborn people who has decided to let his defiance guide him through old age.

He objects to just about everything. He hardly ever goes to see his family doctor and when he does he for sure does not follow the doctor’s recommendations.

He scoffs at his best friend who has bought a new hearing aid and he stoutly maintains that the only way to beat old age is to just beat it — don’t give into it. He goes on and on, and I don’t mind, but it bothers me when I see him struggling.

I am reasonably sure that things could be better for Dad if he would let those who are able to help him but he won’t.

Can you give me some guidance?

A: I hope that you understand that your father is really saying that he, is not at all comfortable with the idea of his own but inevitable mortality. That is something that he has to figure out all on his own. I hope that you will give him the freedom to do so.

I admire people who are like your father. As annoying as his stubbornness is, he is way ahead of those who seem to think that everyone and everybody is here on earth to look after them. That is not your dad’s problem. Neither is his defiance.

You dad’s problem is that he has picked up the wrong guidebook to help him through his aging process. He might be more accessible to those who are here to help him if he shifts to a somewhat simplified but effective appreciation of what aging really means.

The aging process is otherwise that process that starts the final moment to mortality by distancing family, friends, community and responsibilities. It includes visual loss, or the inability to see things clearly; auditory loss, or the inability to participate in open and engaging discussion. It is tied to mobility loss, memory loss and respiratory challenges.

Each loss demands personal change to accommodate it and each change bellows a cloud of tension and uncertainty.

But it is not so bad these days. In fact, what is great about the 21st century is that we have antidotes to all that aging has to offer us. Ophthalmologists are loaded with abilities to help them offset the inevitable loss of visual acuity. We have hearing aids and we have walkers, canes and walking sticks along with both hip and knee surgery to keep that old body moving. And this new age of computing is bringing miracles for those who cannot always remember where they put their glasses. We can even fit people up with mobile oxygen tanks that they can take with them.

If your dad is really interested in defying the aging process, his best bet is to work with his health-care team and accept those wonderful devices that will keep him on the all-time favourite list of his grandchildren for years to come.

I am certain that the health-care team will welcome him. Somewhere along the way the aging process will win out and your father will leave you and your family.

It would simply be better if he did so on better terms.

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