Senescence is the process of deterioration with age. While it remains a perpetual medical and scientific curiosity, the loss of power and growth is less about inquisitiveness to those of us having to endure its reality.

Aging is characterized by the declining ability to respond to stress, increased homeostatic imbalance, and increased risk of aging-associated diseases including cancer and heart disease. Aging has been defined as “a progressive deterioration of physiological function, an intrinsic age-related process of loss of viability and increase in vulnerability.”

Different speeds with which mortality increases with age correspond to different maximum life span among species. For example, a mouse is elderly at 3 years, a human is elderly at 80 years, and ginkgo trees show little effect of age even at 667 years.

Ginkgo tree

The relevance of deterioration for the dilettante is about the same as anything else; namely, how do we intend to manage and cope with it. As far as the medical solution goes I am open to try just about anything, including not only prescription drugs, surgery, epidural, homeopathic remedies, hemp extracts, medicinal marijuana, Green Lipped Mussel Capsules and today’s latest discovery BackAid Max. Granted the latter item is within the Snake Oil department of the pharmacy but at my age and in my condition everything is worth a try!

As for the non-medicinal solution – if indeed there is one – senescence presents its peculiar barriers not the least of which is adjusting to the inevitability of total ruin. Oddly I find this obstacle among the least unsettling. For whatever reason I have been blessed throughout my life with inordinate optimism.  This is especially so now that I have graduated near or beyond the level of what is normally considered the pinnacle of survival. Though it is a fortune not uncommon among several of my friends and acquaintances – usually attributed to the general luck attaching to Baby Boomers – it is statistically not a fortuity to be diminished. Clearly the spirit of well-being is by definition a standard shared by the living; but sadly there are many others who notwithstanding a similar start have ended poorly and are no longer whinnying among us. It is this angular distance which I believe primarily propels me to seek whatever posture aligns with the stars.

Strategizing the accommodation of senescence can at times evince both preposterous and frankly unbelievable ploys.  Those who pretend to be entirely unaffected by aging – saying for example that the concern is solely that of their physician – resound more of bravado than judgement. Nonetheless an equally flippant assertion such as, “I’m not saving it for the funeral!” has a far more flavoursome appeal. Both renditions naturally suffer the imagery of nonchalance which may foreshadow more in the making than the execution. As a former estate administration lawyer it was by a long stretch usual to find the deceased had vastly more money in the bank than cheese in the refrigerator. Old people like to save and count their money.  I won’t pretend to be beyond that vulgarity but I am persuaded in a minor alteration by a commensurate reduction of my physical needs while preserving a moderate interest in consumption and materialism. This scheme is partly added by the acceptance of the sufficiency of what I now possess – and a reminder spirited by “down-sizing” (another of senescence’s hallmark traits) that I have already disposed of a quantity of the same things. Narrowing the scope of materialism and reducing the amount thereof provides a digestible remodelling of what may historically have been over-indulgent.

Another device to beat senescence is a pet. Having had one ourselves we are well acquainted with the incomparable allure.  Recently friends of ours in New Zealand lost their pet after about fourteen years and there is no question that the loss affected them deeply. As well we have another friend in British Columbia who recently adopted a rescue animal (a cat) and its fortune is an indisputable reflection of the current state of mind of its new owner.

The avenue which for me has proven particularly uplifting is the performance of my amateur hobbies some of which I have succeeded to advance moderately with the due attention they deserve. Hobbies for old fogeys can involve things like music (listening and playing), photography, writing and even the indolence of driving an automobile (or perhaps an electric bicycle as we saw an older gentleman doing today).

For the more adventurous there is the attraction of culinary matters. This evening for example we celebrated the piquant refinement of Vietnamese Pho. There is little that quells the anxiety of aging quite like a nutritious and satisfying meal!