My mother, as she reached the end of her life in her eighties, used to say that old age was horrible. I suppose as her memory faded she knew how her body was declining in spite of a family that looked after her towards the end, although she was finally in a home for the aged. So far, as I reach towards the age of 80, this has not been my experience.
Perhaps we need to examine the many and varied family paths to death that occur – from the person who dies at 50 to the person who dies at 100. It cannot be the same for all of us. Circumstances change. Both my grandmothers died at 96 while one grandfather died of malaria in 1922, caught in Africa while a soldier in the first world war. The other grandfather died in Buxton also in 1922, but we do not know what he was doing there! My father died at the age of 75. The modern environment determines our style of life, hygiene and medicine, and at 76 I have lived a more interesting life with 40 years spent in America, the Middle East and Asia.
What is a good environment? It was noticeable that I became quite acclimatised quickly when I arrived in Venezuela in 1961. Others became ill and had to go home to Europe. I have now spent 40 years in Asia, the Middle East and America. Doctors do not seem very interested in the differences between one person and another. Some become ill: others survive for decades. I noticed over the years that I would get mild fevers and recover quickly; I would be bitten by a whole range of insects and still recover! Yet those going on holiday are often warned to be careful. I survive for forty years in the tropics! Why? This exposure seems to support me into old age!
The other aspect of old age in my case is that as I approach 80 I am exposed on a daily basis to my wife’s grandchildren. This has been a wonderful experience for 17 years, and recently I have been reading bed-time stories to one grandson for 5 years and he now reads at the age of 7.
This 40 years of travel around the world and being surrounded by other people’s children is one explanation of why I am approaching 80 in a happy frame of mind!