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Saturday, 4 December 2010

A paradox of getting older

All the surveys say that older people are happier than younger people. "Happier" may be read to mean less restless, less anxious, less troubled; more contented, more satisfied, more at ease. Whatever, I put my hand up to say I am one of those people who feels happier now than when younger.

In some ways this is surprising. Older people often have money worries and they all have health worries. From fifty or sixty onwards, things start going seriously wrong: there are things which are debilitating, like arthritis; and things which may be terminal, like heart attacks and cancer. Poeple live longer but few die of old age.

My parents' and grandparents' generation lived differently as they got older in one important respect. Serious illness struck them down, often suddenly. They dropped dead from heart attacks and they died within months of cancers which had developed unnoticed. There was no warning. They had not been seeing their doctor.

Nowadays older people live with cancer screening, blood pressure monitoring, cholesterol checks, vital organ function checks. Over 60, you can easily clock up a lot of tests.

In the past year, my age alone has meant that I have been offered bowel cancer screening ( you do this one by post), a cholesterol check and probably a diabetes check (I can't remember - I just remember that I don't have it).

Then, because of my heredity, I have regular prostate cancer screening.

Then, because of a virus which did not identify itself to routine blood tests, I had liver function and kidney function tests, followed by ultrasound scans of kidneys, liver, pancreas. After all that, the virus gave up and went away. As it would have done anyway.

There have been more tests, but I think you get the point by now.

I think you could be forgiven for getting a bit anxious with all this screening and testing, even if at the end of it you are still fit and blogging. Sometimes I think that I will say No to the next test. Or simply not go to the doctor. But then I realise that is irrational.

So I have to learn to live with it. But I still think it's a bit of a paradox that I both feel happier and at the same time keep being reminded that one day there will be something to worry about.

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