Aging: Not A Code Word for Decay

I wonder if other people get as tired as I do reading articles and hearing discussions about all the negatives of aging? And though we joke sometimes about being “geezers” or “over the hill,” I still hate being arbitrarily lumped into a group and labeled simply by the number of years passed since I was born. Sure my body fails me sometimes. I’m not as physically able to go-go-go as I once was. But mentally, I feel better than ever, even if I do have to stop and think for a second what day it is, or can’t think of a word or a name, face, etc., that’s “right on the tip of my tongue” but just won’t come to mind.

And I’m proud to say that I see wonderful examples all around me wherever I go when I look beyond the wrinkles and sagging chins and graying or white hair. Today at my silver sneakers exercise class at the gym. It was cold outside, and still the 84-year-old next to me was there, unwilling to stagnate, still moving. Just yesterday she had gone, by herself, to see “The Kite Runner.” She had read and loved the book, and thought the movie was excellent as well.

Just a couple of days ago, in fact, Hubby and I were privy to another marvelous example of an aging man who, while showing the typical outward signs of growing old, in other respects could more than match any 35 year olds we’ve known, and then some. He had a quality that many young people lack. Maybe it’s the years of experience that have given him that edge. He’s a dentist who still practices an old-fashioned style of dental practice, and his caring shows in lots of little ways.

It was our second, but long-overdue, visit to this particular dentist to have our teeth cleaned and checked. We don’t know how old he is, but we’re pretty sure he’s somewhere in his seventies. He walks with arm-braced-walking sticks from his office to the dental chair where his patients wait, and he has to lean or sit on a tall stool while he works. 

On our first visit more than a year ago, I wasn’t sure we’d made a wise choice. I remember looking around the old-fashioned, wall-papered waiting room that looked more like Grandma’s parlor, and I worried slightly if this dental practice might be a little too old-fashioned, meaning outdated. I needn’t have, because I soon learned that here was an honest to goodness old-fashioned dentist, who was in dental practice long after a normal retirement age because it was what he does well, not because he was out to make as much money as possible.

So what does old-fashioned care mean? Well, he took extra special care and time to get x-rays in my gag-easy mouth, reassuring me all the time that everything was fine and we’d get those x-rays, we sure would. He wasn’t in a hurry. Then he set about cleaning and examining, meticulously tapping and scraping, and reminding me that I should get in the habit of doing a breast self-examination around the same time of each month (I remember learning that his wife died of breast cancer a few years back, so he’s very conscientious about reminding all his female patients to self-exam now.)

When he was nearly finished, he massaged the sides of my neck and jaw checking for swelling, then he looked for any lacerations or signs of tumors under and around the tongue and in the esophagus and throat. He guessed from the size of my mouth and throat opening that I was most likely a snorer, and we briefly discussed remedies for that. Not one time did he mention tooth bleaching or cosmetic procedures of any kind. When his turn came, Hubby got the same thorough attention. 

Now that we don’t have insurance, we were afraid our bill would be so expensive without insurance that Hubby even went online on the weekend and signed up for a private dental plan (which we could cancel within 30 days). When the time came to pay, he asked the assistant what the cost would be with insurance. It turned out to actually cost less without insurance. We paid the bill (without insurance) and Hubby came home and cancelled the dental insurance right away.

It was so refreshing to see a man his age with his physical challenges, still doing what he’s clearly able to do well, and not doing it for the money. Before we left Las Vegas, our young dentist there was advising my husband that he needed extensive work done on a bridge. It would have cost us $1,200 along with our what our insurance paid. The same dentist was urging me to have a lot of cosmetic dental work done also, at a potential cost of at least $5,000. But he promised I would have a beautiful smile after that. 

What our new “old” dentist said was that we would watch Hubby’s bridgework for any changes that may crop up, but for now he didn’t need to do anything other than be fastidious in keeping the area beneath it clean of debris. As for me, even though he knew I genetically have fewer teeth than an adult woman should have, he didn’t mention cosmetics, not even bleaching strips.

Having met some of these “old” people, I “get it.” I have a greater appreciation of what “aging” gives us old geezers that the young ones don’t yet have. Too bad that the way life works is, they’ll have to get old first, then they’ll “get it” too.

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4 thoughts on “Aging: Not A Code Word for Decay

  1. What a magical person to find. Sometimes I feel that both G and I have helped put our dentist’s kids through private school and college, but my teeth are mostly still mine. We are both really grateful. And our dentist’s wife does the billing. We like that too.

  2. I like your dentist. I have always loved old people actually. It is really strange to find myself becoming one at such a young age. I like the idea of getting old naturally. In fact, it is kind of nice to see some flaw on myself and chalk it up to my age instead of worrying so much that I need to fix it like you tend to do when you are younger. Even bad hair days don’t really bother me anymore because I’m a grandma and have some wrinkles and my grandkids love me no matter what. I think it’s great when some grandma’s still look like fashion models … but since I never did look like one of those anyway I’m happy with how I look now. Wrinkles add character.

  3. Those words you mention, Edna, are key and I’m glad you pointed that out. “I don’t need to fix it” anymore. That takes away a lot of the pressure of living day to day, feeling that finally I’m okay the way I am and I don’t need to fix it anymore! Thanks for bringing those words out better than I did.

    And Mageb, I’m glad to see there are others with good experiences with their dental practices. I think I lived in Las Vegas too long–with all the focus there on looks and superficials. On a recent visit, I couldn’t help notice the people around me who had obviously had cosmetic surgery on their faces. Too bad the ads for same are increasing in the local newspapers every day–along with sexual aids. Remember Maurice Chevalier in that movie, Gigi? “I’m glad I’m not young anymore!” Funny thing is, I really do feel that way.

  4. What a special person you found in that dentist. If only we had more around like him!
    But BRAVO to you for the gist of your post here…..it’s SO refreshing to hear somebody agree that just because somebody is AGING….it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re OLD. You may have seen my recent comment on another blog to this very subject. It just really irks me that just because one is 60 or above they should consider themself OLD. Sorry…..I haven’t reached that place yet and some of us never do.

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