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Lesson 27

                 Is the Prospect of Growing Old a Bleak One?

                                        Text

                  The Prospect of Growing OId Is Horrifying

    My father has an organic brain disease. It's Parkinson's disease, and in his case it has led to the additional trauma of Parkinsonian dementia. He is in and out of reality. At times, he is as clever as can be--until he sees snakes or space stations or trucks in his room.
    My mother and I together could no longer handle him at home. He required physical assistance for every move and his behavior became too unpredictable. At home, he never slept and neither did we. He also suffers from a narrowing of his spinal column, which pinches the nerves in his back and leaves him unable to find a painless position in bed.


    We brought him to the hospital, where he stayed for seven weeks, until its utilization review board decided he no longer needed hospital care. They kicked him out.
    We put him in a nursing home, recommended as top of the line, with one nursing aide for every 15 patients(if everyone shows up for work). My father cannot feed himself nor get to and from the bathroom. One nurse's aide with 15 patients cannot attend to his needs.


    So my mother spends seven to eight hours each day at the nursing home. My father cries, yells and does all he knows to keep her there. He thinks he is home and can't understand why she leaves him each evening. He thinks she has other men.
    He tells her she is boring a hole in his heart. She cries. The nursing home costs $ 45, 000 per year. My father is lucky: Unlike most Americans, he has a decent union pension. But his pension, added to his Social Security paymet, puts him over the income eligibility levei for Medicaid in Florida. Not only is he disqualified from receiving Medicaid itself, his insurance only pays for claims certified by Medicaid.


    None of the diseases afflicting my father are fatal. He is 69 year's old, and both his parents lived to be 90. My family could be spending $ 45, 000 a year for the next 20 years. It's money we don't have.
    My mother is heartsick. They worked and saved and bought insurance all their lives so that they could grow old in peace Now she doesn't know how she will live, let alone how to take care of him.
    A lawyer suggested to my mother that she divorce my father. Yet she is the one who feeds him, cleans him and loves him. Now, after 48 years of marriage, she is being counseled to divorce him so she can keep some funds back from the nursing home. We think about canceling his pension, but then neither of them would have any income.

II . Read
    Read the following passages. Underline the important viewpoints while reading.

                                 l. About Old Age

Day:   - Professor McKay, can you tell me what you think your report on old people  
  will achieve?
Mckay:   We hope that it will help to change people's feelings about old age. The.
  problem is that far too many of us believe that most old-.people are poor,
  sick, lonely and unhappy. As a result, we tend to find old people, as a
  group,unattractive. And this is very dangerous for our society.
Day:   But surely we cannot escape the fact that many old people are lonely and
  many are sick.
Mckay:   No, we can't. But we must, also remember that the proportion of such people 
  is no greater among the 60 to 70 age group than among
  the 50 to 60 age group.
Day:   In other vords, there is no more mental illness, for example, among the
  60's to 70's than among the 50's to 60's?

 

Mckay:   Right. And why should there be? Why should we expect people
  to suddenly change when they reach their 60th or 65th birthday any more than
  they did when they reached their 2lst? Now that the computer age has
  arrived in industry, the normal age for retirement
  may be lowered to 60 or even 55. Shall we then say that old age begins at
  55?
Day:   But one would expect there to be more physical illness among old people,
  surely?

 

Mckay:   Why should one expect this? After all, those people who reach the age of 65
  or 70 are the strong among us. The weak die mainly in childhood,then in
  their 40's and 50's. Furthermore, by the time people reach 60 or 65, they
  have learnt how to look after themselves they keep warm, sleep regular
  and eat sensibly. Of course, some old people do suffer from physical  who 
  illnesses, but these do not suddenly develop on their 65th birthday.People
  are healthy in middle age tend to be healthy in old age, just as one would
  expect.
Day:   Are people's mental abilities affected by old age?
Mckay:   Certain changes do take place as we grow older, but this happens
  throughout life. These changes are very gradual, and happen at different
  times with different people. But, in general, if you know a person well in 
  his middle age and have seen how he deals with events and problems, you will
  easily recognize him in old age.

 

Day:   So that someone who enjoys new experiences--travel, education, and so on--in
  his middle years will usually continue to do so into old age?
Mckay:   Exactly. We have carried out some very interesting experiments in which a 
  group of people aged 60 to 70 and a group aged 30 to 40 had to learn the
  same things. For example, in one experiment they began learning a new   
  language. In another, they learnt how to use three machines in order to make
  a piece of furniture. The first thing we discovered was that the young
  group tended to be quicker at learning than the old group. However,
  although the old group took longer to learn, eventually they   performed
  as well as the young group. And when we tested the two groups several weeks
  later, there was again no difference between the two groups.

 

Day:   That's very interesting indeed. What else did your experiments show?
Mckay:   Well, one group of old people agreed to attend evening classes for a year to 
  study English and Mathematics. In fact, most of this group became so
  inteiested in their studies that they continued them for another year.
  Anyway, we discavered that they did best in the English classes, and that   
  most of them steadily improved their ability to communicate in both the
  written and the spoken language. This didn't really surprise us because
  other studies have had similar results. And, of course, you can think of a
  dozen writers who continued working almost to the day they died.

 

Day:   What about the group who studied Mathematics?
Mckay:   Well, that's a different story. There seems to be no doubt that people find 
  maths more difficult as they grow older. Though why this is so, I cannot
  say.
Day:   Perhaps cheap pocket computers will solve this problem.
Mckay:   I think you're right. In fact, I'm sure that you are.

 

                      2. The Oldest People in the World

    Thousands of people in the world are a hundred years old--or more. There are about two thousand centenarians in Britain alone, and certain parts of the world are famous for the long lives of their inhabitants: Georgia in the Soviet Union, the Vilacamba Valley in Ecuador, and the home of the Hunzas in the Himalayas. But the oldest person in the world is Japanese. In 1983 Mr.

 Shigechiyo Izumi, aged 118, held first place in The Guinness Book of Records . He was born on June 29th, 1865 and beat the previous record on his 114th birthday. Before Mr. Izumi broke the record, the longest life was that of an American woman, Mrs. Eveline Filkins. She lived for 113 years, 214 days, from 1815 to 1928. During her lifetime she saw the invention of the first camera, the first telephone, the first car, the first aeroplane and the first television. There are official papers to prove the date of birth of Mr. Izumi and Mrs. Filkins, but many other people claim to be as old or older.



                         3. The Secret of a Long Life

    Why do so many people live to a healthy old age in certain parts of the world? What is the secret of their long lives? Three things seem to be very important: fresh air, fresh food and a simple way of life. People work near their homes in the clean, mount.ain air instead of travelling long distances to work by bus, car or train. They do not sit all day in busy offices or factories, but work hard outdoors in the fields. They take more exercise and eat less food than people in the cities of the West. For years the Hunzas of the Himalayas did not need policemen, lawyers or doctors. There was no crime, no divorce and not much illness in thier society. They were a happy, peaceful people, famous all over India for their long, healthy lives.



                         4. How Long Will You Live?

    Do you want to live to be a hundred? Here are some rules for success. First, choose your parents and grandparents carefully. If they lived to a good old age, so will you. Secondly, live in the right place. If you were not born in Georgia or Ecuador, there are other healthy places in the world, like East Anglia in Britain. Thirdly, c.hoose the right kind of job. Doctors, dentists and bus-drivers die young. Farmers, priests and orchestral conductors live much longer. If you are in the wrong kind of job, you can still improve your way of life.


    An old man in the Caucasus was talking about his past life. "I was young then," he said, as he described his 87th year. His secret and his advice was: "Think young and stay young.?An old woman from Missouri, USA, gives this advice . "Drink a little whisky and some warm beer every day." An English lady centenarian just said, "Take a cold bath every morning." On her 102nd birthday Miss Julia Thompson 2xplained the secret of her long and happy life. "Never have anything to do with men," she said. The shortest, simplest piece of advice came from Mr.Jim Chapman, aged 103. "Just keep breathing," he told reporters. What about Mr. Izumi? "I watch TV," he said, "and I never worry."
    But do you really want to be a hundred? What's wrong with the old saying, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."?

 

                    5. Colleges for Old People Blooming

    China has set up 916 colleges for senior citizens, educating about 200,000 people in the pastfive years.
    The colleges offer more than 60 courses ranging from calligraphy, painting and gardening to qigong, massage and foreign languages.
    The students are mainly retired government functionaries but, according to an official from the Association of Colleges for the Elderly, the colleges are trying to serve senior citizens from the whole of society.


    Some institutions are already giving courses in gardening, crop planting and animal husbandry to old people from the countryside. According to a poll conducted by the Harbin senior citizens college in China's northeastern province of Heilongjiang, of its first 200 graduates, 71 per cent had recovered from chronic diseases since their registration, and 85 per cent were "very confident" that they will live longer.
    Many of the students are again working for the society instead of being just consumers. During each semester, about 60 per cent of the students of the college serve society while studying.

 

                      6. The Fulfilment of One's Dreams

    It's only natural to look forward to something better. We do it all our lives. Things may never really improve, but at least we always hope they will. It is one of life's great ironies that the longer we live, the less there is to look forward to. Retirement may bring with it the fulfilment of a lifetime's dreams. At last there will be time to do all the things we never had time for. From then on, the dream fades. Unless circumstances are exceptional, the prospect of growing really old is horrifying. Who wants to live long enough to become a doddering wreck? Who wants to revert to that most dreaded of all human conditions, a second childhood?