At age 66, former Monkee Davy Jones was a baby boomer “and beyond,” had just undergone a physical and was deemed to have “the heart of a 17-year-old,” according to his daughter. He rode horses, swam in the ocean and led a vibrant, full life until a massive heart attack ended it. Jones’ own father was reported to have died of heart disease at an early age.
Yet another passage of someone like Jones can’t help but inspire reflection of my own mortality. How did this happen? That I’m a baby boomer, I mean. It honestly feels like I went from being “young” to being, well, certainly not “old,” right? It feels like this transformation, this “new” way of thinking and looking at things differently—with a finite end in sight instead of a “forever” viewpoint—happened almost overnight. Of course it didn’t.
I think about watching my parents as they aged. Life rolled merrily along until one day, something “bad” happened. Dad had a heart attack at age 55 and then underwent open heart surgery—it was like a bolt of lightening, and he remained “disabled” for almost two decades until his passing. Mom developed breast cancer, heart problems and then, Alzheimer’s. I remember these problems started in my parents’ fifties.
I’m in my fifties. I wonder what role my parents’ genetics will ultimately play in my health—I hope it’s a minor one.
I regularly take a medical conditions inventory, and won’t even dare try to change insurance plans, because I have a pre-existing condition—“the curse,” when applying for health insurance “on your own.”
Who among us doesn’t have a pre-existing condition or three? I like to think of them as notches on the belt of life, even as they’re sufficient ammunition to earn you 1) a higher insurance rate or 2) disqualification from a new plan. I find it all very insulting that I’m mired in a high deductible plan that I never should have chosen. So, I tap my foot, anxiously waiting to determine what health care reform will really mean to me when the government decides what it means to it or them.
And I know I’ll have more conditions as I have more years.
In your power
My close friends share with me that they, too, “are not as young as they used to be.” They go to the doctor—some for the first time in years—only to find their cholesterol is high or their blood pressure is high, or they have (fill in the condition) developing. Their back hurts, their stomach hurts and even sex hurts. It’s all a bit of an affront, a rude surprise, prompting positive resolutions of change in some, a “whatever” shrug in others.
We boomers take media heat because we supposedly aspire to “healthy aging” and “vital aging.” Why not? We just don’t want to age “like they used to.” With the plethora of accurate, evidence-based information available to us, there’s really no reason we have to. That’s what inspired Mind Your Body. We can take aging lying down, or we can take control of how we manage it, knowing it’s not going to go away, even though some day, we are. The choices are ours, and they are many. Now go “Build at Better Boomer,” will you? You’ve got lots of help.