Aging. What’s that? We boomers have recently taken heat from critics who believe we refuse to accept that we’re aging. It was the subject of a recent blog here on Mind Your Body—we’ve even been called “delusional.”
Enter Nortin M. Hadler, MD, at the Universityof North Carolina Chapel Hill, whose new book “Rethinking Aging” frankly reminds us—that’s all of us, not just boomers—that a biological limit exists on longevity of the human species. Even if our generation redefines “aging,” we cannot and we will not live forever. The fountain of eternal youth doesn’t exist in a bottle, pill or injection, nor is it secretly fermenting in a pharmaceutical company’s laboratory. As we age beyond 65, Dr. Hadler told the Digital Journal, “both men and women become frail.”
Frail? No way.
Too many tests
“Aging, dying, and death are not diseases. Yet they are targets for the most egregious marketing, disease mongering, medicalization, and over-treatment,” writes Dr. Hadler.
In the book’s introduction, he hopes “a new institution of medicine will soon supersede one that is ethically bankrupt.”
When we need care, and thus lend financial support to our nation’s multi-tiered health care industry, he suggests we ask ourselves: “Is this a disease or just a predicament of life?” and “Will this [treatment, test, medication] really advantage me?”
Dr. Hadler advises that we learn some basics: the difference between a screening and a diagnostic test:
- A screening test is done because some august body of experts deems it advisable based on their interpretation of the relevant science. You do not have the test for any symptom; you have it because it is time to have it.
- A diagnostic test is a test performed in response to a symptom.
Get real about getting older
Take care to prepare: “Find a physician with clinical judgment while you are well and in your Golden Years.” That relationship isn’t just business: It is very personal: “It is not possible to turn to any provider of health care without investing emotional energy in the encounter.”
Finally, he says that although fitness is important and that “it facilitates function through the aging process,” it’s not everything. “Learn to make living as self-fulfilling as you can,” advises this aging specialist. “For most that requires engagement and community.”
At some point, we all have to get real: (Medical) stuff happens. “I like to teach that once you are an octogenarian, you’re off warranty,” he said. And no, we can’t purchase an extended one. But he says, we can face aging and dying with sophistication, confidence and grace.
(Photo courtesy: © Makarand Kulkarni | Dreamstime.com)