I never gave much thought to life in my 70s until after I entered them. Now that I'm 71, I realize that my life has shifted. I still live in the same place I've lived for the last 15 years, have basically the same friends and activities, am reasonably healthy, but yet I'm not the same. I feel different. I no longer can put as much into a day as I used to. I temporarily forget names of people I know very well. It takes more effort to activate my still curious mind. Intellectually knowing I am mortal is not quite the same as feeling that I'm mortal. So what?
I heard an interview with Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and brother to Rahm Emanuel, which caught my attention. Being surrounded by people in my retirement community who want to, and do, just go on and on and on into their 80s, 90s, and 100s, I've learned to keep quiet about my opinions on old age. I feel very out of tune with the fountain of youth aspirations of most old people around me. Many of them are already partly bionic. How old is a 90 year old who has a pacemaker and a hip replacement? A senior in our community is walking around very energetically with the newly transplanted heart of a 22 year old. But Ezekiel Emanuel thinks 75 is a really decent life span. And he espouses rejecting medication and extreme treatments after 75.
There are indeed cases of people in their 90s and 100s who are still doing amazing things. But, he insists, this type of old person is very, very rare. Most old people go from one problem to the next, using up enormous amounts of Medicare money to keep them going until the bitter end. I used to blame doctors and money-hungry pharmaceutical companies, but I have come to see that it is mostly the old folks themselves who refuse to die. Ezekiel Emanuel's cut off of 75 for medical interventions has few supporters. Even the aging reporter I saw interviewing him kept trying to convince him to change his mind. But I agree with him.
My life has been divided into many segments, each one fulfilling and challenging in its own way. I am grateful for each segment. In fact, my life turned out more interesting and more adventurous than any life I could have imagined. I don't want to end it trying whatever I have to resort to just to stay alive.
I have accepted that the wanderlust that propelled me around the world and into new cultures has been sated. My world travels have now become mind travels. I find excitement in learning new things, or re-examining old things. I'm expanding mentally through researching, reading, and writing my third book — one of philosophical science fiction. It's a book I hope to finish — but maybe not. I have never felt freer — to live and to die.