Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Rules and regimes

The media is stuffed with articles about how to be healthier, how to stay physically fit, and how to live longer. But do I necessarily want to live longer? And do I want to enslave myself to all the arduous restrictions and regimes that might add a few months to my life?

Do I really want to spend hours at the gym, stop eating chocolate and ice cream, stop drinking alcohol, chomp the latest super-food, or do everything standing instead of sitting? No, I don't. That would take a lot of the pleasure out of life. It would turn me into a self-denying killjoy constantly asking myself if I should do this or do that rather than just doing what I enjoy.

My mother lived until she was 96, but by that age she was declining mentally and physically and was a shadow of her former bubbly, energetic self. Do I want to be alive at 96 in the same frail condition? I can't say I do. I'd rather conk out at an earlier age when I still have all my faculties and I'm still enjoying life to the full.

There's also the small matter of looking after all these frail elderly folk who have survived many more years than they used to a few decades ago. They're a burden on families and a burden on the NHS who may or may not give them the care and attention they need. And quite often the people looking after elderly relatives are elderly themselves, with their own infirmities to deal with.

So spare me all the well-meaning articles about octogenarian yoga maestros, nonagenarian marathon runners and globetrotting centenarians. Just give me another bowl of ice cream and some chocolate truffles. And a generous glass of pinot grigio.

23 comments:

helen devries said...

Mother is now 102 and has had a sudden decline in her health in the last six months. She still has all her marbles, however, so is all too well aware of her condition.
She still has the will and the wish to live...though were I in her condition I think I would prefer to turn my face to the wall.

nick said...

Helen: Good that she's still mentally alert despite declining physical health. At least she can still appreciate everything that's going on around her. My mum was increasingly bewildered by the outside world.

tammy j said...

oh AMEN to this post Nick. a great one. xo
like most anything else. quality instead of quantity!

nick said...

Tammy: Gee, thanks! So do you want to live as long as possible or do you want to go before the rot sets in?

Bijoux said...

As long as quality of life is still good, I'm ok with living longer. It would be nice to meet a few great grandkids some day.

Joared said...

I’m just going with the flow — hard to predict how my view will evolve I find as I get older. Family friend lived to 103 and was mentally sharp as a tack. If my mind goes though, I might as well, too. Or, if I had constant unrelieved pain, other medical issues I might find them not worth it. What I sometimes saw in my work with older people, even some in facilities (usually the better quality ones) who hung on to life because their family members weren’t ready to let go. Lots of different attitudes, relationships, belief systems came into play.

nick said...

Bijoux: That's the crucial issue, isn't it, quality of life? If your quality of life has seriously lessened, do you really want to hang on till the bitter end?

Joared: Constant unrelieved pain is terrible, I hope I never get to that stage. Interesting that people stay alive until their relatives are ready to deal with their death. As you say, lots of different attitudes and belief systems involved.

Ms Scarlet said...

The thing is with unhealthy habits is that they don't kill you quickly, they might instead kill you slowly and painfully. It's not 'ping' and you're dead any more. There is a whole industry dedicated to keeping you alive for as long as possible and reaping the rewards for selling a pill for this and that.
Anyhow, as for cakes and biscuits - everything in moderation!
Sx

nick said...

Scarlet: They may well do, though healthy habits are no guarantee against a painful lingering death either. And yes, Big Pharma does very well out of our increasing longevity. If I had to take a dozen pills a day to keep me alive, I would conclude that it's about time I left the stage.

CheerfulMonk said...

I actually live a healthy lifestyle and love it. I'm with you, quality of life is a lot more important that living longer, and exercise and healthy eating are contributing a lot to my happiness right now. It works for me, but I don't criticize other people's choices.

nick said...

Jean: I do have a fairly healthy lifestyle as it happens, but I'm not going to go chasing after the latest media fitness fad - which will probably be discredited a few months later!

Rummuser said...

Well said Nick and ditto the last paragraph.

nick said...

Ramana: Cheers, down the hatch! Goodness, that bottle's almost finished....

kylie said...

The evidence is clear, healthy habits lead to better quality of life and may help reduce some of the burden you speak of.
Many years ago my mum, who was in her early sixties at the time, declared that with her mobility issues she didn't care if she died early. Soon after that she was diagnosed with breast cancer and made every effort to treat it. I have concluded that what people say and how they actually behave about their health are often quite different.

Wisewebwoman said...

The thing is Nick those in decline are not quite aware of their mental faculties being impacted and I only write from experience with them. I live in terror of my recent friend's oblivious unawareness (now) and her driving and showing up at inappropriate times for events, etc.

That's it in a nutshell. We move beyond decisions as regards our condition and care. I've seen it happen so many times and the desire to live outweighs our capacity to live it as we envisioned some years prior.

It's only heartbreaking for the observers.

XO
WWW

nick said...

Kylie: Yes, what people do can be very different from what they say. I say blithely that I wouldn't want to stay alive if I was increasingly frail and bewildered, but in the event, would I still think that? Your mum's U turn is instructive.

nick said...

www: As you say, we may move beyond decisions and someone else decides for us. Also true that those in mental decline might not be aware of it. It was certainly heartbreaking to see my mum degenerating from her once lively, quick-witted self.

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm afraid you pay a lot more attention to media fads than I do! Andy and I have good filters about that sort of stuff, and we do try to be sensible so we can continue to stay healthy and enjoy life.

nick said...

Jean: Oh, I don't pay much attention to them, as I know very well that health fads come and go, "experts" keep changing their minds and so on. But I can't help noticing them all as I flip through the papers every day.

Danielle L Zecher said...

Yes!!! I hope I have quite a few years left, but I want to live, not just exist.

nick said...

Danielle: Exactly. Who wants merely to exist from one year to the next?

Liz Hinds said...

It's all about wellness and wellbeing now, Nick. Those are the key words. What do they call them? Buzz words.

nick said...

Liz: Which presumably just means good physical and mental health, but replaced by trendy new words. Do you remember when the big thing was yin and yang and keeping them in balance? Not to mention keeping our chakras in good order.