Are We Defined By Our Health? by Bob Lowry 

Are We Defined By Our Health? by Bob Lowry 

It is absolutely true that if a group of seniors gather, medical conditions and problems will be discussed. We seem to eagerly trade stories of a misdiagnosis, a lingering illness that won’t go away, a troubling test result, or the struggles of a friend or relative.

Ask young people about their future as older folks and declining health is likely to be part of their description. Watch a TV show that includes an older character and he or she will probably show some evidence of physical or mental impairment.

I suggest that too often people of our age are defined by our health rather than something positive about our lifestyle or accomplishments. And, that description comes from not just younger people, but us as well. It seems almost like a badge of honor to talk about our diabetes or high blood pressure. Special diets and a regime of pills validates us as officially a senior.

Recently, I was listening to a program on the Internet, produced by the BBC’s station in Northern Ireland. It dealt with the problems that come from misconceptions about what older folks can do and need. Government and the private sector have ideas what being 65, 70, or 80 means. They attempt to approach what they perceive as our reality with programs and products.

One of the comments that generated the idea for this post was this tendency to think of older people by their limitations and not their potential. The idea that retirement is not the end but the beginning of a completely different stage of life is a recent development but something that is not universally believed.  One of the people interviewed on that show is 42. She said she is looking forward to being 65 and free to start something completely new from what she is doing now.

What a great attitude, and one that represents the feeling that most retirees I come in contact with have: age means freedom, opportunity and rejecting artificial boundaries.

Of course, we have declines in health. That comes from being human. We are not as spry as we once were. Our memory has some holes in it. Hearing aids are used when needed. It may take a bit longer to stretch and feel limber each morning.

So what? If that is what happens as the physical body ages, why do we allow others (and ourselves) to define us by what is very natural? Why do we think about the walls instead of the space beyond? Why do we define who we are by what our bodies are doing instead of  what we can do?

Talk about anything but your last visit to a doctor!

May I suggest next time you are with a group of friends you don’t talk about health problems, but life experiences. Talk about what is new or different in your life. Get really brave and start a discussion about some political issue. Ask what travel plans others have.

Just don’t compare medical charts.

If you have a spare 27 minutes and want to listen to the BBC show I mentioned above, click this link: Live Long, Work Long?

By Bob Lowry

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