It’s not only social ideas about “senior citizenship” that drive me crazy. One can ignore the drumbeat commercials for adult diapers, and for the hundreds of drugs that claim to prolong life by a week or two, that is, if the side effects don’t kill you first, or chastisements over bad habits like smoking or eating red meat – habits that supposedly shove one off the cliff “before one’s time” as if death can be predicted by statistics; the game “cheat death” so others may profit.
I frown when the physician’s assistant at our clinic rattles off the big diseases that wait ahead that I must strive to avoid.
“Just how am I supposed to die?” I always ask her. This is one more social snag for an ageing Asperger: making direct, honest challenges to the social rules and concepts surrounding aging. I’m not about to start loading up on prescriptions that will mess up my mind and body while claiming to relieve me of some condition that is merely an annoyance, until 30 bottles of pills crowd the bathroom counter – pills that supposedly undo the adverse effects of other pills.
Real physical changes do require psychological adjustment; not easy for Asperger types. One often hears that Asperger people don’t like change, but this puts the wrong spin on how we may react to change. “Liking” change has little to do with it. Anxiety has been a life-long companion; no one who has lived with chronic depression and anxiety wants to spend any more time in these states than necessary. Change initiates stress for every human, but for an Asperger, “good” stress is no different than “bad stress.”
I am exceedingly averse to losing control to neurotypicals, who “go by” mechanistic plans that supposedly “help” people, but which assume that people are all the same and ought to comply with whatever boneheaded scheme institutions, corporations or governments apply – obedience is the theme. For the elderly, that generally means returning to kindergarten. In the neurotypical mind this makes sense. Old people are just like children: treat them like children; problem solved. No need to understand old age as a unique stage of life.
It may be due to having an artistic temperament. Artists and writers often choose a simple existence – something like: 1. Work in the morning. 2. Eat, take a walk, do errands in the afternoon. 3. Go back to work in the evening. To people who follow a rigorous social existence, where not one minute is “free” (it’s now a virtue to be an out of balance and exhausted squirrel who never rests) this may seem selfish, lazy, unfair, or even criminal.
“You write? What do you write?” If I said cookbooks, romance novels or fashion guides that would be fine, but what one writes has nothing to do with writing for money. Writing is thinking and learning and persistence is required.
If you ask what any American what he or she does, as long as it involves a paycheck, it’s acceptable, because someone has conferred social value on that person by paying them money.
I had thought that my current lifestyle would carry me into old age with little more than a “bump” or two, but that’s not so. Old age really is a new phase of life just like childhood, adolescence and young adulthood; work, marriage, family and children; empty-nesting and having to raise your grandchildren when you thought all of that was finished. It’s not attempting to extend “youth” into six, seven or even eight decades.
Experience asks the question, What are you going to do with the information that you have stored over a lifetime?
Taking yoga classes, getting a plastic surgery – “100,000 mile” overhaul; buying Ho-rish young clothing, playing bridge or going bowling with other seniors; nothing wrong with those options, I suppose, but my life’s trajectory has never been social.
Just what do Asperger types do in old age? It’s a new frontier… how to be seen as a capable adult human, despite having people speak to you as if you’re a lost and deaf three year-old; to be regarded as having no purpose, but obliged to continue as a “consumer”.
I’ve dealt with strange reactions to my thoughts and behavior for six decades, but I find that learning to accommodate frustration has not lessened my irritation.
Society puts a lot of energy into depriving all kinds of people of fulfillment: human beings need to contribute to human effort and accomplishment. People suffer when they become objects that the “ruling minority” deny self-expression and the means to support families.
One of the great insults to Aspergers individuals is to deny us the basic human satisfaction of contributing: not because we don’t have skills and intelligence, but because we don’t “ape” social conventions. What a loss: society needs us, young and old.