Survival Strategy for Seniors

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 6, 2004

When your hair grows thin and your weight shifts South., and your teeth fall out of your sagging mouth, just croak out this epithet:

&uot;You’ve all tried to kill me but I ain’t dead yet!&uot;

The great pundit Art Linkletter wrote a book many years ago titled &uot; Old Age Is not For Sissies&uot;. I was young enough at the time to chuckle at the humorous lines and dismiss the material as a lot of laughs. Now that I am at the threshold of my senior years, that trying time when AARP offers you membership and department stores offer weekly discounts, I am beginning to realize Linkletter was right.

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It takes a lot of guts to grow older. No matter how much we paint and nip and tuck the outer layers of our mortal container, the inner workings slowly wear out and need extra care. I don’t remember exactly when I began to sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies when I got out of bed in the morning. One day my elbow snapped, then my spine crackled

and my knee popped. I took comfort in imagining that no matter how good Goldie Hawn looked when she got up in the morning, Kurt Russel was saying &uot;Honey, is that cracking sound you?&uot;

Aging has been on my mind because this month I celebrate one of those birthdays that end in the number nine. I have a whole year to get ready for another milestone birthday ending in 0. Those birthdays bring out the comedian in my friends, the sarcasm in my relatives and the sadism in my doctor.

On my last ending-in-0 birthday, my physician insisted I have every medical test known to man. I was poked, prodded, pumped and prepped, scoped, squeezed and suctioned. And when all the tests were completed and I dragged myself to the doctor’s office to get the results, he said, &uot; Except for your weight, you are in pretty good shape for a woman your age. Diet, exercise and see me next year.&uot;

Wait a minute!

I wanted something more. Maybe a medal for my bravery or a trophy recognizing my willingness to endure ( with grace and aplomb, I might add) the repeated assaults to my sensibilities. I wanted a prize!

On reflection, I figured I really did have my reward: the knowledge that I was entering my next decade without a major health concern. I now had a baseline to measure any detours from health my fickle body might take.

Too many folks put off routine exams that could result in early diagnosis of breast cancer, colon cancer , high blood pressure, cardiac problems and other debilitating diseases. Some fear the tests, some fear hearing bad news, some have no insurance and some with insurance tell themselves they do not have the time or the money for the copayment. Most of us take better care of our cars and our houses than we do these bodies we live in 24 hours a day.

I am one of those culprits. I did not diet and exercise as the doctor recommended and I still carry those extra pounds. But this month I resolve to take better care of myself. My parts may have a little wear on them, but they are the only parts I’ve got.

Give yourself a gift.

Get a checkup that is recommended for your age and health history. A good place to start might be the screenings for Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol that are offered by Obici Hospital on the first Tuesday morning of each month. The local health department also offers screenings that are free of charge or have a minimal charge. Your prize is your health. And from what I’ve seen so far, we all need to be in as good a condition as possible to meet the challenges of getting older.

Beverly Outlaw is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist.