Doctors, dentists and dermatologists: Being old is a fulltime job

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“You’re a candidate for glaucoma”, the optician told me the other day, which sounds rather grand, as if I’m in the running for a PhD, or at the very least some high office at the UN.

I wondered if, like a university degree, I could abandon my candidature, or at least delay it to a later date but, alas, glaucoma apparently runs its own race.

“Don’t worry, though,” said the optometrist, “it’s not that you have glaucoma, just that we need to keep an eye on it.”

Can’t they develop an annual pit stop, much like the mechanic?Credit: Istock

I’d like to report that he chuckled at this point, pleased with his eye-related pun, but no merriment was present. Instead, he flashed the concerned but understanding look you become used to receiving once you are over 60.

All would be well, he concluded, so long as I made an appointment, at this time each year, to have a check.

Once a year! What a relief. I rapidly made the appointment. Every other medical person thinks once a year is not enough.

The medical profession has taken a collective look at me and decided I am about to fall apart. Each profession is convinced that the author of my demise will be the disease in which they happen to have expertise.

All the same, how many appointments can one person have? Being over 60 starts feeling like a full-time occupation.

The optometrist wants to see me once a year, the skin cancer fellow at six-month intervals, and the physio once a month. The dentist, who I last saw three years ago, is in a pit of despondency, sending monthly reminders of increasing disappointment and barely concealed anger, much like an electricity company whose bill has gone unpaid. The GP, quite rightly, needs to check my blood pressure before more pills are issued, and – if we’re him – I’d check the dentist’s blood pressure while I was at it.

The sending of medical reminders to the over-60s must be the only thing keeping the postal service going. Some days the medical reminders fill my postbox, my text messages and my email. I wonder why they can’t develop an annual pit stop, much like the mechanic, in which they check my oil (cholesterol), replace my brake pads (knees), and refocus the headlights (eyes). Then, like the mechanic, they could issue a pink slip, allowing me to get myself registered for another year.

I’m not saying the medical folks don’t mean well. I’m not saying they are using me as one might use an ATM, removing money at regular intervals. I’m not saying – I’m really not – that they have private school fees to pay.

The much sought-after patient, Richard Glover.Credit: Dominic Lorrimer

I’m sure they have studied my odds and have concluded – having observed me first-hand – that they are all required to hurry to my side.

All the same, how many appointments can one person have? Being over 60 starts feeling like a full-time occupation. “What do you do?” a kindly young person might ask at a barbecue. “Oh, I’m over 60. That means medical appointments most mornings, an operation or two once a year, vaccinations as if one were a pincushion, and then I fit in paid employment as best I can.”

At this point, even the most kindly young person discovers they need a fresh beer.

It’s not just the medical appointments. It’s also the hairdresser. Unless a chap has been given the gift of baldness, a man over 60 must attend the hairdresser at least once every five weeks.

There was a time in my life when I’d let my appointments slide. I’d leave it 10 or 12 weeks and, in that extended period, merely move from lad to louche, or from haughty to hippie, or, at best, from tidy to trendy. No longer. Once you are over 60, a two-week extension past your normal hair appointment starts to matter. It’s the difference between “well-preserved old dog” and “reminds me of the Unabomber”.

Who knew that late middle-age would require such constant effort?

Keeping the weight gain to levels that are merely horrific is another full-time occupation. Luckily, in our household we’ve been watching the SBS series Alone, in which contestants try and survive in the Tasmanian wilderness with limited tools. The really smart contestants put on 10 or 12 kilos before they start, so they can survive on their “stores”.

This is good news for me. Now, whenever Jocasta queries my second beer or third serve of nuts, I give it to her straight. “I’m in training for the next series of Alone. You never know when a contestant might drop out at the last minute and the phone will ring. It’s best to be constantly prepared.”

This brings us back to the medical appointments. I should be thanking the medical world for its care.

When the call from Alone comes, I’ll need sharp eyes. I’ll need the knees my physio hopes to give me, and skin that is cancer-free. I’ll need the good teeth I could have if only I would only respond to my dentist.

As for my haircut, that may be the most crucial of all. After all, I’ll be on TV.

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