Thursday, August 03, 2017

Growing old

Many people treat dying young as uniquely tragic. Death in general is usually tragic, although the sooner a villain dies, the better. But there are far worse things that can befall a person than dying young.

Fear of death receives much attention, but I suspect that for lots of folks who reach a certain point in life, their greatest fear isn't fear of death but fear of old age. And for many people, their worst fears come true.

There are many potential sources. Fear of physical and/or mental incapacitation from ravaging maladies like Parkinson's, senile dementia, stroke, and macular degeneration.

Fear of penury. Social Security is insolvent. Public-sector pension funds can go belly up. Corporations sometimes buy out other corporations, but refuse to honor the pensioners. 

Fear of abandonment in a nursing home. 

Fear of loneliness if a spouse dies or divorces. Estranged children or children living out of state. You may only see them once a year. 

From what I've read, women divorce at much higher rates than men, and get custody at higher rates than men. A faithful father and husband can wind up alone with nothing but child support payments. 

This is not to deny that dying young is often tragic, but sometimes dying young is a mercy. They are spared the dire consequences that await many who have a normal lifespan. 


  1. So how does a person deal with growing older? I have been wondering about this a lot recently. It seems that life often ends badly for older people. When I was younger these facts were easy to ignore. But now it seems that in a lot of ways it is easier to "go out swinging" in some way or another.

    1. One issue is whether to take advantage of every medical opportunity to extend life. By artificially prolonging life, we raise the risk of living too long for our own good. In some cases it's better to let nature take its course. I'm not talking about euthanasia. I just mean not clinging to life. Voluntarily foregoing treatments that extend life beyond your body's natural expiration date. That can be asking for trouble.