Had a great laugh this morning when I asked my 90 year-old pal how his ‘get up and go’ was. “Oh, it’s great,” he enthused. “In fact, every time I get up I have to go, if you know what I mean,” he confided. I do. Frankly, if peeing were an event in the Olympics, seniors would have a jump start on the competition. Aging is an obstacle course with unforeseen twists and turns that require persistence and humor just to navigate.
Everyone deals with it differently, though. A close friend in his 80’s says he told his kids, “If I ever get to the point where I’m helpless, bring me that bottle in my medicine cabinet.’ “What’s in the bottle?” I asked. “Xanax,” he replied. “Well, how do you plan to kill yourself with Xanax?” “I figure if I take enough of it, that’ll do the trick. I take half a pill every night before bed to help me sleep.” “Well what if you’re all out by the time you decide to take the whole bottle?” I queried. “Hmm,” he replied, “didn’t think about that.”
Now there is good reason to be a bit depressed when one looks in the mirror as the decades pass. But did you know that depression affects both adolescents and the elderly equally? That’s sobering. What possibly puts a sixteen year-old on par with one who is sixty? Some say the common thread is that the young who suffer depression have not yet grasped their sense of identity or purpose. The old are desperately grasping on to who they were and cannot accept who they are now.
This morning, my own ‘get up and go’ was gone. I just did not want to get out of bed. Finally, I shuffled into the kitchen to make coffee. Suddenly, my 17 year-old tore into the room like a wild tornado. She grabbed a muffin in one hand, drank half a glass of milk with the other, flung her backpack over one shoulder and headed out the garage. “Bye, Mom,” she yelled. “Gotta go.” Talk about inspiration. Ten minutes later, I was out the door myself and headed to the gym. Nothing like youth to set fire to the old embers.
My cure for depressed teens? Spend the day in a nursing home. Feeling old and depressed? Spend a day in high school.
________________________________________________________________________ Helen Hudson is a counselor and 20 year member of the ACA. She is also the author of "Kissing Tomatoes," and speaks around the country on the importance of caring for the elderly, particularly those with Alzheimer's, with compassion.