Today I learned that I am old. I guess I have been fooling myself for the last months (years?). I turned 70 in November and marveled at passing that seemingly insurmountable obstacle for male Webners in my family line. But, other than writing a new number on questionnaires asking my age, I did not find being 70 was any different than being 69 or 60 or, in fact, much different than being 50. Well, a couple of things different, maybe. But, overall, it hasn’t seemed to me that the fact of another year made any real physical or mental difference. That is until this morning.
This morning I went to the doctor for my semi-annual physical. I go semi-annually because of a heart “event” of a few years ago and, I suspect, because the doctor gets two fees a year if I go semi-annually instead of annually. But I don’t mind. I have never been one of those males who doesn’t like to go to the doctor. I don’t exactly like going, but I prefer to be told I am healthy than to assume it and find out too late I am wrong. But, I digress. This morning I learned I am old.
After taking my weight and my blood pressure, the doctor’s assistant (nurse? Do they have real nurses in doctors’ offices anymore?) said she was going to ask me some questions. “Fine”, I said a bit curiously. “What year is this?”, she asked. I smiled and said “2012”. “What month is it?” I was tempted to say something smart mouthed, but thought better of it and responded “January”. The next question, while obvious, was a bit trickier. “What is today’s date?” I never know the date without looking at a calendar and it is even less important since having retired. I thought I gave the wrong answer and became immediately concerned. I was partially rehabilitated with the follow up question of “what day of the week is this?” I nailed that one. On it went with her asking me what she was pointing to – her watch and asking me “what is this?” A pen she was holding up. Then to repeat three words three times and again to repeat those words a few questions later. There was one tricky question or combination question: “Spell ‘world'” and then “spell it backward.” I had to think a minute on the backward part. There was also a drawing to copy – overlapping pentagons. Not too difficult but then I’m not the artist that some family members are.
Ultimately, the doctor advised me I had passed with a 100% – 30 out of 30. As you will have guessed, the test was for detecting early onset of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. Both are conditions associated primarily with being OLD or at least elderly (not that being elderly” is more acceptable than being “old”). It seems that Medicare (also associated with “old”) wants docs to give the test to patients of a certain age. That would be “old” people, ’cause that is mainly who is on Medicare. According to the doctor it is an effort to detect these diseases at an early stage so that medication that slows the memory loss condition can be administered. It is for the best interest of the family and patient and saves medical expenses in the long run, he said. I know, however, having listened to the politicians and insurance providers, that it is just a part of the government’s death committee’s initial activities to determine which of us live and which of us die. (Just kidding – I hope.)
But now I can no longer avoid the fact that I am old. I have been tested for it. Though, I still don’t feel old, I do plan to study for my six month check-up, and concentrate on knowing the date – just to be sure I don’t get placed on the elimination list.