I’ve learned there is one rule of senior living that's as immutable as gravity, God's Commandments, or Star Trek's Prime Directive.
It's the First Rule of Geezerdom: Never ask, "How you doing?"
If you ask, they will tell. And tell. And tell.
I always thought folks talked mainly about people, things, and ideas. Not so. In AARP World, we seldom speak of anything but our own aches and pains.
And we're darn proud of it!
The vocabulary of elder illness, both real and imagined, is vast. Violate the First Rule with a 70-year-old just back from seeing her doctor, and she'll go on for an hour on everything from dandruff to death.
She'll render you speechless, obligated to pay heed to her diabetes, dermatitis, depression, delirium, dementia, deafness, dermatitis, dropsy, double vision, diverticulitis, and dyschezia, (Dyschezia?) And that's just the D's.
Brain Transplants and Other Bragging Rights
With such focus on grumbling, it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that there's a rigid subculture here, not unlike the military.
We seniors wear our ailments like battle ribbons. Bragging rights go to those who have most challenged their physicians.
A brain transplant instantly confers four-star status on any senior.
On the other hand, if you've reached age 70 without a heart bypass, or at least a couple of angioplasties, you're not even in the game.
A quadruple bypass, for example, usually confers starter honors at the shuffleboard court. Not always. A sudden, even temporary lose of sight will push that bypass off the court. (Of course, that may be for competitive reasons only.)
The Second Rule of Geezerdom is that you don't want to be out-illed when you or someone talking to you violates the First Rule.
Here, for the benefit of you Boomers just now climbing up into the ranks, is a Primer on Essential Medical One-upmanship.
Like Basic Training or SATs, by the time you're 65, you are expected to have experienced the following examinations — if only to have something to talk about while bobbing at the 55+ community swimming pool.
- Colonoscopy: A procedure in which the doctor drives a double-decker sightseeing bus up your butt, taking a leisurely look at everything below the stomach. The Lower GI, a medieval variation, is when you are asked to hold a bathtub of foul tasting liquid in your bowels for 20 minutes without exploding.
- Endoscopy: When your doctor and her friends drive that same bus down your throat, checking out all those unsightly erosions you hear about in Nexium ads.
- For men only, there's the dreaded Prostate Exam: Here, the physician inserts his hand, arm, shoulders and head up your butt, often inviting the nurse and others to join him. Once all is behind you, you're offered a tissue. This is not for your tears.
- For women, there's the Mammogram: After your saggy breasts are pushed up to where they used to be 40 years ago, a huge, cold machine drops down, crushing the poor old things as you gasp in pain. On the plus side, this is about the only time anyone will ask you to appear topless.
When seniors aren't carrying on about their illnesses, they're getting checkups in hope of finding something new to boast about.
Suggest lunch to a resident of an adult community, and be prepared to hear a detailed explanation on why he can't make it because of a doctor appointment, a lab procedure, dialysis, CAT Scan, cataract follow up, or all the above.
For you Boomers now invading Seniordom, here are a few more observations about aging and health. Soon...
- You'll no longer laugh at Preparation H commercials.
- You'll know all the warning signs of a heart attack.
- You'll be the first one to find the bathroom, wherever you go.
- You'll enjoy hearing about others' operations.
- You'll closely compare ingredients in bran cereal section in your grocery store.
- You'll be able to live without sex, but not without your glasses.
Welcome to the wonderful world of AARP.
By the way, did I mention my recent brain transplant?