Old age is regarded as a sort of disease with inevitable symptoms. 6

from book

A 95-year-old once went to see his doctor about knee pain. After a cursory look at the knee, the doctor asked what the man expected. His knee, after all, was almost 100 years old. “Yes,” the man responded, “but so is the other one, and it doesn’t bother me a bit.” This anecdote points to an unsettling fact. More often than not, people, doctors included, regard age itself as a kind of disease. A knee that’s healthy at 95 is considered an aberration, a surprising exception to the rule. But equating elderhood with certain symptoms can have devastating consequences. Take the example of Lynn, a 79-year-old woman who lived with her daughter, Veronica. Lynn was healthy and happy, but one Friday night, she started acting slightly strange. She seemed slower than usual, and on Saturday morning, she was oddly apathetic. She and Veronica had planned to attend a special event that day, but she was suddenly uninterested. On Saturday night, the oddness continued. While preparing for bed, she failed to put on her pajama bottoms. In the middle of the night, Veronica found her standing before the bathroom mirror, seemingly disoriented. Unsettled, Veronica called 911. When the paramedics arrived, they asked whether Lynn had adjusted her medications recently. When Veronica responded negatively, they heaved the equivalent of a professional sigh. She’s nearly 80, they said, and it’s the middle of the night. Bewilderment is par for the course. They were sorely mistaken. Though many elderly people do suffer from some form of dementia, being old doesn’t always imply being senile. Old age does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with midnight confusion and general apathy. In fact, Lynn had begun to bleed inside her skull on Friday night. On Sunday morning, after the paramedics left, she suffered a major stroke. What makes this story particularly worrisome is that the paramedics were probably following protocol. They almost certainly had Lynn’s best interests at heart. But they, like most people in the world of medicine, held assumptions about what it means to be old. In the end, after months in the hospital, Lynn returned home. But she was forever changed by her stroke.