Monday, December 6, 2010

Come My Love, Grow Old With Me

When Robert Browning penned the words in the title of this posting he was addressing another person. Well, there are some semi-inanimate items that we ought to be addressing those words to as well, particularly adding on the rest of Browning's sentiment--"The best is yet to be." Oh that this were the case.

What am I babbling about? Our bodies. Despite the fact that people are living to ever longer ages, our bodies are not keeping pace with our years. It would seem that our bodies are not designed for the long haul. Many of our parts start to wear out, wear down and generally stop functioning at optimal speed long before we are ready for that to happen. And in some cases, we are helping those parts to wear out faster.

My readers know my sentiments about dentists and dentistry. Despite that I have been spending way more time at the dentist than I would like, and it's basically age-related. As my dentist told me, our teeth are not made to withstand the rigors of life and growing older. Enamel wears down; roots get weakened through constant use; gums wear down through that constant use. And we don't help matters with some of our habits. No, eating foods that will produce plaque that erodes enamel and gums is not something we should be doing, and we are. Yes, dental hygiene should be part of our daily routine. However, my dentist also feels that our increased dental hygiene is part of the problem.

Do you have any of those cooking pans that have non-stick interiors? When you buy those products they tell you that using harsh abrasives and cleaning pads should not be done; they wear down the coating and can damage it. Now think teeth. Toothbrushes come in soft, medium and hard bristles. It's the thinking of many that hard bristles are the way to go--the teeth get cleaner. They also wear down faster. According to my dentist no one should be using anything but a soft bristle toothbrush--they're kinder to the enamel on the teeth and kinder to our gums.

Now look at your toothpaste. Just how abrasive or harsh is it? If it's advertising itself as doing a super job of cleaning then it is most likely highly abrasive. What is to abrade? To wear down/file down. Some of those toothpastes are removing far more than any gook on the teeth--they are removing enamel with each brushing.

And then there are all those whitening products. Again, many of those products work precisely because they are either abrading the enamel on teeth or are penetrating the enamel, making it more susceptible to further damage.

And this is only teeth I'm talking about. The rest of our body parts aren't any less susceptive to wear and tear.

Not enough to have to think about during a jam-packed day, and then add in wondering when your body is going to start giving up the great race. With all the scientific/medical technology we already have available, with more to come, and our increased years of living, the spectre of The Bionic Man has moved out of the realm of television fantasy and into the realm of the possible/probable.


Tuvi said...

Isn't science wonderful? Can't remember the story name but I read one set in the future where the person who dies is made up of all manmade products by the time of his death. The funeral home debates on whether to bury him or recycle his parts.

My grandfather has to carry a copy of his exrays and a letter from his doctor because his hip replacement and knee replacement set off the alarms when he goes thru airport security.

Trudy said...

Could you find a more depressing topic for a Monday morning?! That said, I'm curious. What is the halacha about burying body parts. I've never heard that you have to bury a tooth, but what about other parts? If someone has a heart replacement, does the old heart have to be buried or handled in some special way?

Plenty of soldiers unfortunately who lose limbs during battle. Do they have to be buried? And what about those knee replacements? Does the old knee need to be buried? Science and halacha are more married then some people realize and these are questions that are going to come up more frequently in the future.

JS said...

Well, to give you some perspective on growing old nowadays, my father's parents and their families went through the Holocaust. My dad distinctly remembers his mother referring to her own mother (his maternal grandmother) as an old, old lady at the end of the war. Now, I'm sure that what she experienced aged her prematurely, but, it wasn't till many years later that my dad realized his grandmother was only in her late 40's-early 50's at the war's end. In those days, that was an "old, old lady." Nowadays, most people would tell you their lives are just beginning at that age.

tesyaa said...

JS - interesting and true. Just yesterday I was looking at some old family photos and I saw a picture of my mother's oldest aunt, who looked like a very elderly lady, taken in the early 1960s - she would have been close to 70 at the time, but she looks much older, especially compared to today's 70 year olds. She probably underwent some suffering and deprivation as a young girl, but after her marriage to a well off man, her life was relatively easy; yet she showed age. She lived into her 90s, but there was no Botox then, and she must have chosen to eschew hair coloring and other tricks that might have made her look younger.

There's definitely a culture of youth in this country, and if you look old, even if it's normal for your age, it's considered a problem.

Re teeth: I once mentioned my fear of losing my teeth, and a much older relative (who had lost most of his teeth) chimed in that I should hope to live long enough to lose them!

BE said...

Personally grateful that we have all those replacement parts today. Otherwise we'd be ending up on a junk heap. Had a knee replacement last year and life is so much better now. Still it kind of freaked me out at how easily the words knee replacement came from the doctor's mouth. 30-40 years ago no one had ever heard of this and today it's just business as usual.