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Americans are the most 'ill-informed' society on Earth

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Pre-PET Headgear. Image by Brookhaven National Laboratory

Kate Lansing comments on our national obsession with aging and suggests some of what we're told to fear is natural.

Whether it’s newspapers, magazines, television, radio or billboards, we can’t take five steps in any direction without being blasted with fear-mongering about some dreaded malady that most of us will never be at risk of contracting.

We are the most "ill-informed" people anywhere! And if we took all the ill-information date to heart, at the age of reason we'd all lock outselves up in a bubble, never use our imaginations or common sense, and just exist rather than live.

The worst offender of the moment is Kaiser Permanente and Allison Janney and her Alzheimer’s commercials. The commercials alone are irritating enough, but knowing that health insurers really don’t give a damn about our health -- especially when we’re sick -- denying our procedures or prescriptions, it makes them objects of vicious invective-screaming.

I hate constant reminders, such as that one that reminds me I’m getting of a certain age where I’m too old to live and if I don’t exercise the ol’ gray matter my brain will dry up a blow away.

Besides the fact that people with no memory can’t take care of themselves, get lost a lot and frequently burn down their houses because they forgot to turn off the space heater, it's irritating because nobody gives a tinker's damn about old people in this country anyway. Oh, they say they want us to live long and prosper, but just try asking one of them for a job. It’s hard to forget just how old one is getting when you’re of advanced age -- like over 50 -- and there are constant scary reminders that you and your brain could be at risk of total melt-down.

Newspaper articles, health segments on the news and even ads by one insurance company to “use it or loseit” make you want to weep every time you forget the tiniest thing, like filling the washer and letting it run its cycle minus dirty laundry. The misplaced keys or other items are nothing. We’ve been misplacing things since we were old enough to crawl and strewed our stuff as we went. If you’re into gardening you know it’s not unusual to look for your clippers or shovel a hundred times while doing some chores. Putting them down, making a mental note about where you temporarily parked them, then immediately forgetting is par for the course. So is going to the market specifically for milk and coming out with $50 worth of groceries and no milk!

I’ve been doing that for as long as I can remember. Turning on the oven and forgetting to put in the meatloaf is as bad as putting it in and forgetting to turn on the oven. Either way, you’re out of dinner and foraging for cereal or lunchmeat. Occasional forgetfulness is a fact of life, but constant reminders that you’re “too old to live,” and you need some calisthenics for the brain just adds to the angst, and makes it far easier to castigate oneself for forgetting little things when you’ve become distracted or your brain races faster than your body and keep up with.

We’ve all read or heard the things we can do to exercise the ol’ brain matter. We’ve also seen tests we can take to see if we’re losin’ it. Count backwards from 100 by nines. I couldn’t do that when I was 16! Start doing Sudoku puzzles. Like I said, numbers ain’t my thing. Do crosswords. Been doin’ them for years: New York Times in ink pen. Recite the alphabet backwards. Can’t do it, never could. I can barely do it forwards and then have to sing it. It’s a left brain/right brain thing. Get more exercise; physical exercise stimulates the brain, too. Not into physical exercise for the sake of exercise. Never was; never will be. It’s brain-numbing boring.

When I'm old and feeble and locked away in some disgusting convalescent home (warehouse for the aged and infirmed), and they begin testing me by asking me to name movies, the actors who starred in them, authors and titles of their books, I hope there's someone around to tell them I never could remember those things. Names just don't stick in the ol' brain matter.

It’s a good thing for me that I have two daughters around who are 20- and 23-years younger than I am to remind me that they do the same things. It's comforting to know that I have younger companions who do the same things, but I still get angry with myself for forgetting. Since most of the brain agility lists contain stuff I’ve been doing for years or fall into the “not on your life” category, I decided to make up a list of other things we can do to save our brain power. Except, damn it! I forgot what they were!

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