“I can’t meet you for coffee this week,” my friend said. “I have an appointment with my nephrologist.”
“Nephrologist? What’s that?” It turns out my friend has a problem with her kidneys, and I didn’t have a clue about it. Cardiologist, neurologist, psychologist, whatever, they’re all part of our lives now.
Yes, we all go for regular medical check-ups. ‘We’ being women of my age, namely, seventy or older. We’re all getting on in years, doing our best to stay sane and functioning, and – most important of all – looking after our health.
So we have our annual mammography, a process involving a long session in the waiting room before we are called, then a painful few minutes as our breasts are squeezed between two glass plates to be X-rayed, followed by a consultation with the doctor who does the ultrasound. I challenge any man reading this to undergo a similar procedure on a regular basis.
But there’s more. Blood tests that often involve fasting. Tests of the various fluids and solids that emerge from our bodies. Visits to one’s GP, to discuss the results of the various tests. Trips to the pharmacy to collect the medicines that have been prescribed subsequently.
Looking after our health is taking on an increasingly important part of our lives. One’s daily routine starts with the pills that have to be taken on an empty stomach, continues with those that are consumed after breakfast, and ends with those (mainly Statins) that are best taken before going to sleep (provided one does manage to get to sleep. At least there are pills that can help with that, too).
Apart from the various medications and medical procedures, there are other aspects of life that call upon our limited reserves of energy. Exercising regularly, and preferably frequently, is just one of the things we are required to do in order to remain active and functioning. Mental agility is demanded of us too, and in order to achieve this we are advised to do crosswords or Soduko, learn languages, attend lectures, dance, sing or learn to play a musical instrument. In addition, we are told to conduct as active a social and cultural life as we possibly can, not to cut ourselves off from society, as some of us would prefer to do, and above all, to eat healthily. That last one is in itself almost a full-time occupation. We do our best, but I’m afraid I’m too weak-willed to eschew chocolate, cookies and cake completely.
So although all this is easier said than done, we’re doing our level best. When we meet for coffee we try not to discuss our aches and pains and medical conditions. We make sure to get vaccinated against flu, as the authorities keep exhorting us to do, and avoid going out when the air quality is poor. That is also something that we are advised to do by the powers-that-be.
There is some consolation in the thought that someone out there is concerned about us old folk, is looking out for us and trying to take care of our welfare. The lessons that were learned in France a few years ago, when thousands of elderly people died in a heat-wave because no one went to see how they were, seem to have been taken to heart by Israel’s health authorities and the medical profession in general.
The question that remains is, will the day ever come when we can be considered responsible adults and the masters, or mistresses, of our own fate?