Senior Deserve More!

For Lee, thanks for the joy

Feel free to call me a dreamer, because I am. I dream that people who plug through this life; paying bills, raising kids, paying taxes; answering to life’s ethical dilemmas, tests of honesty, heroism and even defeat, should feel some sunshine on their faces in the form of dignity at the end of their lives. Let’s face it, sexists bosses, ill-timed traffic tickets, freak illnesses, Goodbyes- life is a struggle that should have hope, dreams and fanfare at the end.

After the piling up of new years, the accumulation of knowledge shouldn’t be pushed aside like some newly formed wrinkled jowl that used to be a chin. The aged should be treated like the chief tribe warrior in this life. Not only respected, danced and drummed for, having earned the proud title senior citizen, expert in this life. It’s just not enough to get a discount at the movies. Hell my mom didn’t even get a retirement party, just a nasty display of age discrimination out of her job of 16 years at Alaska Airlines. Pooh Pooh to you Alaska!
My hope is change is on the horizon. Let’s address recalibrating humanity. Let’s address American citizenship as one including long term care. One should be assured their last breath is not with a view of a parking lot. Is it too much to add music in the room, healing tunes as they pass, Bach or The Stones, just something that suits them. Something that strikes a fanciful tone as they pass through this life
If we can send a rocket into space, clone a human, tell our computer where to drive us and have it take us there, I think we can do more with our aging. Make this happen, people. With every hyperactive overly impassioned overly sentimental breath I take, I will endeavor to make respect and dignity as sure a part of American life as grey hairs and wrinkles.
Yes, I’m a little fired up! Upon returning from vacation, I had the happenstance ill fortune to see, for the very first time, my aging dad, in a nursing home. He looked skinnier than ever, propped up by pillows, tipping over; lilting like a rag doll to one side, eyes lifeless and blank. The only emotion shown was the way he sucked in air as if struggling with basic life fueling oxygen intake. He wanted nothing, no food, no movement, no touch, no words, he wanted nothing, but to leave this world, numbed for years by the act of violence that killed his son years ago, he just looked like he hadn’t won, life had.
If you come away unscathed in this world, surviving rather than drowning, nearly dying of grief from the heartbreak you suffered, why is there still such a lack in the homestretch for humanity to grace us in the end? Why do we have such dire need for dignity to be recognized just as it was the day you were born? A warm shower, a close shave, a person to be their to smile or hold your hand, to make sure you sit up straight, see the light of day, change the channel for you, find the wee bit of life that may be left in your eyes? Why don’t we pad human life, with a little extra bubble wrap for the end, the fragile stage, the part so deserving of human heart and tender familiar hands?
It isn’t reasonable for the middle class to go for broke caring for their aging parents. Alzheimer’s and Dementia are on the rise and many forty-something’s are questioning how in God’ green earth do they fund life in longer term or nursing facilities? why isn’t aging care tacked on to sales tax for our society? We pay property tax, sales tax and then if we earn enough to pay the rent or mortgage, we can be assured, if you make it to old age that price will triple just to live month to month? How do we pay for the cost to humanely tend to our aging parents? The shock from the bills for our seniors can be as flabbergasting as the care that goes on inside of these places! A nursing facility is 3 grand a month, on the cheap, and average 5-6000 thousand a month! Why, if we Americans tout living the dream, do we not address bowing out of the dream with some grace?
My answer in the next twenty years is not to take up skydiving and lion taming so my kids are off the hook. Although it’s tempting. A person needs to end their adventure as tenderly as they did at the beginning of it. We need soft sheets, swaddled blankies for our thinning skin, and yes we indeed end up in diapers again. Why aren’t half the proceeds of each sale of products like Depends, Ensure, Cream of Wheat, Centrum Silver and stool softener donated to “Age with grace” fund for every American? When you trade in your drivers license for your bus pass a senior discount card should be status and reward? Why do they get the shaft instead of long due respect and HUGE perks? The homes serve the blandest of foods, they should get the organic applesauce and good smelling shampoo. We need better than we used to have, cause we made it this far! Sadly, This is just not the case.
When you entered this world gifts were abundant, necessities blankies, the healing powder for your bum, hand sewn quilts, color for your world to make your eyes sparkle and focus. Why is it…..that on the other end of this very same story, the non material gifts, the services aren’t just as abundant? after so many pages have been weaved together to create such depth, so many stories, so rich with life, after weathering this life with a sharp internal Doppler, spot on in shouldn’t end so dismally? Where are the 500 count sheets if you spend so much time in bed? The average care facility as the most blah beige and brown and mauve, furniture, yes mauve-a color so awful it that should be ashamed of even being called a color…..artless walls, menus with things like poached peaches, store brand vanilla ice cream, with not hint of real cream? This is where I question why? In today world college savings goes hand in hand with a need for a built into the plan reinventing the life of the aging is key. If you don’t have a will, a power of attorney, a plan to leave this world the way you came into it, make one, yesterday! Can we ever hope for a proper send off for our aging seniors, only with your help!

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