That period of life when what was so relevant isn't as relevant. Lighten Up!
For the most part, I did not start paying attention to aging and what it means to Arthur to grow older until September 2011, the month I retired. Then after numerous conversations with Lietta as to what retirement would look like, I began considerations as to how I had become a Senior Citizen,
how I jumped every time I looked into the mirror and found an unrecognizable stranger looking back at me,
how there seemed to be an onset of clumsiness
and moments of hesitation when I tried to remember some specific fact or person.
I thought about our beloved Australian Shepherd, Jake, who came into our lives as a six-month old puppy and who lasted 15 human years. I remembered watching him age and thinking about whether or not I would remain as vital as he did. In my biased opinion, our Jake aged quite gracefully.
Using Jake as an item of comparison, I did a little research via Wikipedia (to whom I contribute $4 a month cause I go there probably 15-20 times a day) and learned the following.
A number of characteristic ageing symptoms are experienced by a majority or by a significant proportion of humans during their lifetimes.
Teenagers lose the young child’s ability to hear high-frequency sounds above 20 kHz.
In the mid-20s, cognitive decline begins.
Wrinkles develop mainly due to photoageing, particularly affecting sun-exposed areas (face).
After peaking in the mid-20s, female fertility declines.
People over 35 years of age are at risk for developing presbyopia which is normal loss of near-focusing ability. Most people benefit from reading glasses by age 45–50. The cause is lens hardening by decreasing levels of α-crystallin, a process which may be sped up by higher temperatures. (so if we had lived in my hometown in Idaho which is 5,000 feet up, I might not have gotten near-sighted so early.)
Around age 50, hair turns grey. Pattern hair loss by the age of 50 affects about 30%-50% of males (hell I was pretty much a cue-ball by my late thirties) and a quarter of females.
Menopause typically occurs between 49 and 52 years of age.
In the 60–64 age cohort, the incidence of osteoarthritis rises to 53%. Only 20% however report disabling osteoarthritis at this age. My thumbs started hurting at about 67-68.
Almost half of people older than 75 have hearing loss (presbycusis) inhibiting spoken communication. As I got older I felt a natural reluctance to engage in as much spoken communication as I used to … especially in tavern brawling environments.
Enlarged ears and noses of old humans are sometimes blamed on continual cartilage growth, but the cause is more probably gravity.
Many vertebrates such as fish, birds and amphibians do not suffer presbycusis in old age as they are able to regenerate their cochlear sensory cells, whereas mammals including humans have genetically lost this ability. Jake lost the regeneration of his cochlear sensory cells around age 12. That’s when he stopped jumping around when I asked, “Ya wanna go fer a ride?”
By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. My first was in 1994 and the next one in 2010.
Frailty, defined as loss of muscle mass and mobility, affects 25% of those over 85.
Atherosclerosis is classified as an ageing disease. It leads to cardiovascular disease (for example stroke and heart attack) which globally is the most common cause of death. (Doesn’t seem to be in my list of coming attractions for the time being.)
The maximum human lifespan is suggested to be 115 years “for the foreseeable future”. My tarot cards and runes have told me I’ll be sneaking up on 90 eventually.
All I know is that as long as my eyes let me look up and see my Lietta across from me at the table,
or when she nudges me and asks “are you asleep” when we’re watching Netflix or Hulu or Amazon on our Roku,
or when she looks at me at the restaurant and says “You are not a fun date!” cause I’m too busy keeping my fork in the mouth-entering position,
or when she asks me to bring her a cut up orange,
or when she reaches over and touches my face to make sure I have my CPAP on,
or when she has told me “I love you” for the 37th time before noon every day of my life,
it doesn’t get any better than that.
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