Thursday, May 08, 2014

Young bloods

It is both my hope and fear that the Boomers will not go gentle into that good (or not so good) night.

My hope is that we stay active, engaged, interested, independent, with it. All those good things. Which, at least in my family, has been the norm for those fortunate enough to make it into anything resembling old age. (When my mother died at 81, she had three trips planned: Chicago for a family wedding; Cape May, NJ to look at painted ladies (of the Victorian, wooden variety); and Vienna and Prague to reconnect with her Central Europa roots. My Aunt Mary is 89, slowing down a bit, but still looking, acting, and sounding like someone a good decade younger.) And I hope that once we are no longer active, engaged, interested, (mostly) independent, and (mostly) with it, we will exit gracefully.

As was the case with the recent departure of the father of a friend-of-a-friend. In his early 90’s, B’s father had been suffering from kidney disease, but was able to stay active, engaged, etc. by going through dialysis twice a week. Then his kidneys started to fail, and he was told he’d have to come in for daily dialysis.

His response? Thanks, but no thanks. He called his kids, told them what was up, went home, got comfy in his Barcalounger, and died after a few fade-away days.

My fear is that many of our cohort will refuse to get in the Barcalounger and will persist in sucking up resources that could go elsewhere – hey, it’s Medicare, so it’s free! – even when we’re pretty much past our “best before” date. Folks with the means will buy organs on the black market, not really caring where and from whom those organs are harvested, and whether the donors volunteered or were dragooned. And for the legit organs that are out there, will the geezer Boomer – even if he has the means to buy it on the open market - have the good grace to let the heart, lung, or liver go to the millennial who needs one. (Fortunately, engineered organs will probably make any “real organ” scenarios moot at some point.)

Which is not to say that we all shouldn’t have the right to decent health care that keeps us healthy as long as it makes sense for us to keep hanging on.

So how about that news that young blood – a renewable resource! – may help alleviate some of the bummer aspects of the aging process?

Okay, so far we’re talking of mice, not men. Still…

Getting old mice blood from young ones makes them smarter and improves such functions as exercise capacity, according to reports from two research teams that point to new ways to study and potentially treat human diseases of aging.

In one study, researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco found that blood transfusions from young mice reversed cognitive effects of aging, improving the old mice's memory and learning ability.(Source: WSJ Online.)

We’re a long way from applying this to humankind, but, in terms of helping us old fogeys stay a bit less fogey-ish, this could be the mouse that roared.

Throughout my adult life, I’ve been a blood donor.

Fast forward a decade or so, and maybe I’ll be a blood donee.

But what if there aren’t enough donors out there?

Will the Boomers turn into latter-day vampires, grabbing unsuspecting young folks on the street and sinking their fangs into those tender young necks?

Who’d have thought that there actually might be a fountain of youth out there, and that it’s spouting blood?

I just hope my generation doesn’t trample over everyone in their way to dip their ladles in.

1 comment:

Kathleen Rogers said...

So, Dracula and his fellow vampire had it right all along!