Getting old is a full-time job

BY Richard Glover

10th Jan 2024 Humour

3 min read

Getting old is a full-time job
Richard Glover bemoans the growing list of health check-ups and beauty appointments needed to keep an ageing body well-oiled (and camera-ready)
“You’re a candidate for glaucoma,” the optometrist told me the other day. “Candidate” sounds rather grand, as if I’m in the running for a PhD. I wondered if, like a university degree, I could abandon my candidacy, but, alas, glaucoma apparently runs its own race.
“Don’t worry,” said the optometrist. “It’s not that you have glaucoma, just that we need to keep an eye on it.”
I’d like to report that he chuckled at his sight-related pun. Instead, the young optometrist flashed the concerned but understanding look you become used to receiving once you are over 60.

A growing list of health checks

The medical profession has taken a collective look at me and decided I am about to fall apart. Every single doctor and specialist I see is convinced that the author of my demise will be the disease in which they happen to have expertise.
The optometrist wants to see me once a year, the skin cancer fellow wants to see me at six-month intervals, and the physiotherapist wants to see me once a month. The dentist, who I last saw three years ago, sends me monthly reminders of increasing disappointment and barely concealed anger.
"I wonder why my medical team can’t develop an annual pit stop, much like a mechanic "
My family doctor needs to check my blood pressure before more pills are issued. If I were him, I’d check the dentist’s blood pressure too.
I wonder why my medical team can’t develop an annual pit stop, much like a mechanic who checks my oil (cholesterol), replaces my brake pads (knees) and refocuses the headlights (eyes) all at once.
I’m not saying the medical folks don’t mean well. I’m not saying they are using me as one might use a cash machine to make regular withdrawals. I’m not saying they have private school fees to pay. They’ve studied my odds, I’m sure, and they know I need help.

Putting the time in

young and older person at party
All the same, being over 60 feels like a full-time occupation.
“What do you do?” a kindly young person might ask at a party. “Oh, I’m over 60,” I reply. “That means medical appointments most mornings, an operation or two every year and vaccinations as if I were a pincushion. I fit in paid employment as best I can.”
At this point, the young person discovers they need to go and get another beer. It’s not just the medical appointments; unless he has been given the gift of baldness, a man over 60 needs a haircut at least once every five weeks.
"Once you are over 60, a two-week extension past your normal hair appointment starts to matter"
There was a time when I’d wait three months between cuts and, in that period, move from tidy to trendy. No longer.
Once you are over 60, a two-week extension past your normal hair appointment starts to matter. It’s the difference between “well-preserved old dog” and “crazed conspiracy theorist.”
Keeping my weight under control is another full-time occupation. Luckily, my wife Jocasta and I have been watching the Australian version of the TV series Alone, in which contestants try to survive in the wilderness with limited tools. The smart ones put on one or two stone beforehand, so they can survive on their “stores.”

The pay-off

Now, whenever Jocasta queries my second serving of dessert or third beer, I tell her that I’m in training for the next series of Alone. “You never know when a contestant might drop out and the phone will ring.”
Maybe I should be thanking the medical world for its care. When the call from Alone comes, I’ll need sharp eyes, strong knees and cancer-free skin. I’ll need the good teeth I would have if only I would respond to my dentist.
A haircut may be the most crucial of all. After all, I’ll be on TV.
Illustration by Sam Island
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