After reading Atul Gawande’s "Being Mortal", I see that 20-somethings need to join the difficult conversation about age and end-of-life care.
Every year on his birthday my dad jokingly tells my brother and I that he’s turning 45. He hides his grey and white hairs with black dye. And by doing so he seeks agelessness. Flip on the TV and listen to any news station or gossip channel or any big-time talent show. A person’s admirable or horrendous accomplishments on television are often first defined by name and age. And each program’s intermissions are filled with commercials advertising youth—feeling young, looking young. I don’t acknowledge these examples to say there’s something wrong with wanting to be younger. Rather, it demonstrates that age has a great importance in our lives. Perhaps the fear of aging is rooted in our anxiety of losing the comfort of our young life.
I think kids my age understand the fear of aging. But we don’t talk about it. The world beams cues to us that we’ve got it good. Don’t squander it. “Gradually you’re ability to effortlessly do what you want will vanish. When it does, you’ll be happy you spent your youth seeking the joys of life. If you don’t, you’ll regret it when you’re older and no longer able. That’s just life.”
It was Gawande’s book that helped me reach an alternative view of age. The thought that the joys of life somehow end years before death bothers me. Yes, there may be some truth to the fact that at some point I maybe physically and/or mentally unable to pursue the greatest joys of my life. But now I see a problem with having a belief that there will be a time of my life where I will have to live the end of my days without joy, happiness and some of my desirable freedoms. Furthermore, it seems more troubling that our culture, with the best intentions, advocates for the sacrifice of life’s joys for the unlikely hope of, as Gawande puts it, securing the winning lottery ticket.