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How Did I Get Here:
Coping With the Changes of Age

October 15, 2014


This morning DemocracyNow interviewed a woman marcher in St. Louis: she was 90 years old! She said she has always known St. Louis was segregated, and many of its inhabitants racist, ever since she moved there in 1967, and has worked for change her entire life.  When asked why she still feels compelled to speak out, she said ‘because it’s still an issue and she still cares’.
 
 That made me sit up and take notice: she was vital, interested, quick-witted and active: at 90. This year I turned seventy, and though turning seventy doesn’t feel as daunting as it did in February, I know it is still affecting me.  My daughters were concerned this year because I forget things, which I never used to do. My Dad had Alzheimer’s, so I could understand their concern.  Actually I was frightened too.  I saw my doc, who wanted to send me to a neurologist for some tests, which I didn’t want to do since I don’t test well, especially when I’m nervous. I never have, the college boards a case in point.  My English teacher at CCNY in New York brought up those scores, telling me they were obviously way off.  I can still picture that damned exam room, all these years later.  My doc suggested an online test, called the SAGE test, which I could do at home, asking if that might make me less nervous. 

I wasn’t sure but said I’d try it.  I did. At first my heart was pounding and I was, indeed, very nervous. But the questions intrigued me, so I soon became engrossed with the process itself.  I forgot I was taking a test (sort of), that might indicate if I was a candidate for early dementia or Alzheimer’s.  When I scored 100%, we dropped the matter.  Nevertheless, my memory loss still bothers me, so I signed up for Lumosity.   Now I do the exercises for fifteen minutes three times a week.  Thank goodness I am improving, able to remember more on a daily basis every week.  And in scoring, I chart ‘above average’ for my age group, though not by as much as I’d like.

Bottom line: how do I deal with the last third of life, knowing that as each year passes I am closer to death?  Of course I understand this is true for everyone, but when I turned seventy, that reality suddenly became burdensome.  Seeing the silver-haired woman on television this morning helped me realize I could be vital for another twenty years if I eat healthy food, which I do, exercise frequently, which I do, and exercise my brain, which I now do as well.  A topic for another day is what I would do if that wasn’t the case.  If I am diagnosed with a debilitating illness, then what?  How do I feel about euthanasia?  Not sure, though I live in a state that allows it.  As I said, that’s an issue for another day. I still experience a tingle of apprehension about the state of my mind, but maybe, just maybe, like that silly battery commercial, I’ll just keep going and going and going! At least for a while.

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Nancy Alvarez began writing at Sarah Lawrence College and has written articles for the New York Times Magazine and Cosmopolitan. She has also written for several television shows and movies, including“The Waltons.” Her first novel, “Ladycat” was published by Crown in 1980 under the name Nancy Greenwald. She has taught screen writing at UCLA Extension, as well as in the Masters of Professional Writing at USC as well. She is currently working on a multi-generational novel set in Austria, Poland, New York and New Jersey. Her latest book, "The Girls and Me," along with "Little Nancy," can be found in the TTN Bookstore. Nancy can be reached at either http://www.nancyalvarezwrites.com or www.facebook.com/NancyAlvarezWrites.