When I was much younger I never thought about dying of aging. My health was good. I was young and active. More than seven decades after I made my entrance on earth I can see my health waning and my ability to do things diminished. I can feel the end of life approaching closer and closer. I no longer have a great fear of death that I had in my younger years because I am finding less to enjoy in living. But not all is yet lost. I now focus upon the Quality of Life instead of longevity though they are somewhat intertwined.
But what do I really mean by Quality of Life? When do I reach that tipping point when Quality of Life is no longer present? Of course there are no clear cut answers. I think that for me Quality of Life ceases to exist if the pain and inconvenience of living become greater than the joys and independence of living. Again this is quite vague because it is all about my feelings in the future and I can only speculate about how and when I will feel life no longer worth living.
I think that if I were to suffer a stroke that would leave me ambulatory or significantly limit the use of my mind then I might not feel life worth living. I greatly value my independence and ability to think and write posts on this blog even though very little I say hasn’t been said before. At least these are my thought even thought they may not be original. I still care about the world. I can still feel and express those feelings. I’m able to communicate with others inadequate as it may be. I can perform physical tasks enough not to be a burden on anyone but my wife whom I have burdened since our marriage many decades ago. I’m enjoying life in my retirement more so than when I was working.
My health, which is a major factor in the quality of living is holding its own though I can see myself gradually slowing down. Things just don’t work as well as they did in my younger years and I can feel my health slipping more noticeably than before. People used to complement me for looking younger than my age. I no longer hear such complements. I miss them. I am definitely identifiable as a senior. More importantly I now identify myself as one.
So am I any closer to explaining the Quality of Life? Perhaps a little. The key attributes I have in wanting to live are good health, feeling self worth, and being independent. Of course they are all related. Good health is conducive to feeling good about oneself and being independent. But what does good health mean to me personally? I am after all in worst health than I was 10 years ago. I am a bit overweight, somewhat hypertensive, unable to exercise as long as before, and am a cancer survivor among other things. I’m noticing gradual losses in hearing, sight, and balance. These are symptomatic of an aging body that is no longer able to keep up the pace of repairing itself as organs and systems try to rejuvenate from everyday usage. My mind is still intact though I am more frequently forgetting why I was walking to the kitchen or elsewhere without pausing a few seconds to remember. And the pauses are getting longer and it is happening with greater regularity. I also notice that I am slowly becoming less nimble than before. My reaction time is slowing down and my joints less flexible and willing to obey my commands. But in spite of all of these slowly failing systems I am still quite independent and able to function on my own. My state of mind remains fairly positive. My independence and physical condition still allow me to do most of the things I enjoy and value. I try to eat well, exercise regularly, and occupy my mind.
So what do I really mean by Quality of Life? For me personally I feel that there are two aspects to it: one intrinsic, that is how do I feel about myself; and the other extrinsic, how much do I feel I am contributing to society vs. taking from it such as health care and other services of society I no longer pay for. In reality they are both intrinsic because these are thing I have a vested interest in but for the sake of discussion I find it easier to break into these two parts.
The intrinsic aspect is all about the degree of pleasure and well being I feel about life. Am I enjoying myself more than not? Is my mind still active and creative? Am I still an active player in my life? Do I feel many of the things I do rewarding. Am I able to physically get about with relative freedom such as walking, driving, hiking, biking, exercising and other physical activities? Can I travel? Can I still have fun? Do I enjoy entertainment? Am I able to function as an independent person? Do I feel more in control of my destiny than not? Can I still effectively write posts on this blog?
Then there are the extrinsic values that I treasure. Am I able to contribute to society? Can I still express compassion for others? Am I socially and politically engaged? Can I still express my feelings about the future of this world and humanity? Can I do something to make a difference, small as it may be, for our environment?
I still feel quite engaged in life and physically and mentally active It’s been a good life overall. I’m concerned enough about my mental and physical health to do something about maintaining it but I’m not too worried about the inevitable end nor do I yet embrace it. So I still feel quit good about my Quality of Life as vague as I may sound.