Third Age: Don’t panic, it’s just another stage of life

When my internet goes down, stay away from me.

I become a maniac. It creates a special kind of anxiety of which I knew nothing before the days of my beloved laptops. I remember each laptop as people remember their dead pets. And my early ones, not to mention the telephone services that sustained them, were as dependable as a politician’s promise.

I’d never have managed if my computer blokes, Darryl and Rob, had not lived close and were always there for the stuttering, distressed victim of early internet mania. Some friends gave up on the internet because of these early experiences. Others became stronger for it, learning quickly that the only constant is perpetual change. I just got better laptops and worse internet anxiety. That is the difference between young and old internet users. The young take the internet for granted. The old see it as a miracle and fear its loss.

Under stress of internet loss recently, I made a silly mistake about the workings of my car air conditioning switch. I have made similar mistakes in the past, even in my youth, and after a bit of a blush, shrugged them off. This time, despite kind words from the mechanic, I feared that I was not on top of my game anymore.

For this I have to thank the media for all their Armageddon stories about how just around the corner is an “avalanche” of demented old things. Past age 65, we become like rabbits in a spotlight, ever fearful that the D word will be aimed at us. We may lose confidence, though there is nothing wrong with us. We may see nothing but a downward spiral to becoming half-joke, half-pest to our families.

Because of ageing population panic, you can expect sly looks around you if you lose a pencil. The rate of dementia is not increasing, but panic stories about it are.

It has increased in those with controlling temperaments, such as politicians and their advisers, a tendency to remove things from the lives of the old: their houses, their driving licenses, their ability to maintain their simple lives within the constraints of fixed incomes. The latest discussion of toll roads is just one which has left out of account what such might mean to pensioners. Only the abolition of compulsory age-based testing for drivers has given me some hope of a turnaround in thinking.

Cue for some constructive stories, without the old stereotypes, about the interesting things that, say, Domiciliary Care does in the community to help old people sustain their lives at home, about more imaginative housing and health solutions, about improved attitudes to what is just another stage of life. Self-doubt engendered by dementia hysteria can be crippling. It can ruin our precious years.

What do we do? Not sure, but now my internet is fixed I might find the answer.


Authors details:

Written by Shirley Stott Despoja. Reproduced with Shirley’s permission. The column was first published  in the Adelaide Review.

Shirley’s Third Age columns appear in  The Adelaide Review and The Melbourne Review each month.

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