Hints, Tips & Advice

How do disabilities enter into the aging process?

We have all heard the phrase, “Live life to its fullest.” With that mindset, we forge forward with our own methods to fulfill our individual destinies (and I use the term destinies loosely). Some of us will start families, others will want to play sports as kids and young adults, many will begin businesses, and there will even be a few who will sail around the world…For each of us, there is a unique life waiting. Yet, regardless of the chosen path there is one inevitable eventuality – death.

The minute we are born the aging process begins. It’s true, we have lots of growing to do and years of developing into adulthood before we consider ourselves as entrenched within the aging process, and from a certain perspective that is a legitimate point of view. However, our time on this planet is limited, and from that unique perspective, beginning from our birth we are moving continuously toward death – this is the larger aging process.

How do disabilities enter into the aging process and this week’s Weekly Message? As you might deduce, the probability of developing a disability seems to increase as the aging process progresses. For example, if we all agree that the required use of a wheelchair is a form of disability (mobility disability), we might also all agree that we see many more elder folks in wheelchairs than people under the age of 65. So it would seem that as we age, the likelihood of incurring some form of disability also increases. We might conclude that with regard to disabilities, “the issue of disability for individuals…is not whether but when, not so much which one but how many, and in what combination.” [I Zola. 1993. JDPS 4(2): 10-39].

In other words, as we age the chances of incurring a disability increases. And by some definitions of disability, we will all be classified as disabled.

So it would appear that aging and disabilities are inextricably and intrinsically linked. With that thought in mind, let me suggest that this week’s Weekly Message is an introduction for a more in-depth look at how we perceive aging and disabilities, and how we also handle the treatment of both those concepts, in our social as well as political worlds.

Define aging and disability, then ask yourself: How does the medical field handle the treatment of a physical disability in a 70 year old versus the same condition in a 35 year old…And why?

To further complicate the issue, how does the governmental bureaucracy and its’ vast medical wing offer treatments to each of these individuals? Lastly, we should define “disabled” in a more appropriate term for our care recipients; especially considering the idea of eventual disability for us all. Would that open up more potential funding sources for care?

The world is changing… Attitudes and approaches to aging, disabilities, and illnesses are also changing.

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