Health in Old Age: the Great Unknown

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cartoonThis cartoon, by Vancouver Sun cartoonist Graham Harrop, hits on one of retirees’ biggest mysteries: their future health.

The elderly live with the anxiety of getting a grave illness that isn’t easy to fix, such as cancer or a stroke.  And despite having Medicare insurance, they also have to worry how much it would cost them and whether they would run through all of their savings.

They’re right to worry. Health care costs increase as people age from their 50s into their 60s and 70s. About one in five baby boomers between 55 and 64 pays extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses in any given year. But by 75, the odds increase to one in four, according to a report summarizing the reasons that some seniors’ finances become fragile.

Large, unexpected medical expenses are one of two major financial shocks that threaten their security – widowhood is the other. A small and unlucky share of retirees will find it difficult to absorb a spike in their medical costs, forcing them to cut back on food or medications, the report said.

Harrop’s cartoon is the product of his cousin’s inspired suggestion that he fill a book with cartoons about the humorous accommodations made between couples who’ve lived together for decades. The book – “Living Together after Retirement: or, There’s a Spouse in the House” – reveals his personal knowledge of the subject. Harrop, who is 73, has lived with his partner, Annie, for more than 20 years.

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Mike Mas.

Kim, always enjoy your stories, find them to be very helpful, and this one is no exception.

The cartoon, however, has me wondering. Drawn by a Vancouver cartoonist, I suppose it was intended for a Canadian audience, in which case it has another layer of meaning for those who enjoy(?) socialized medicine…

As an ex-Canadian who still has relatives living there, it is not uncommon to go to an emergency room and receive an appointment for up to 24 hours in the future due to the incredibly long lines. Many go home, then return later to check in. Could this be the cartoonist’s main point? Thanks, Mike

    Kim Blanton (blogger)

    Mike – I took it from Harrop that the cartoon works for all old people, because of its message: you’re going to get SOMETHING but who knows what.

    However, your interpretation a la Canada certainly adds another layer to the humor!

    Thanks for reading the blog.


The one in four ratio after 75 was an eye opener. 1/5 was bad enough, but I will just keep walking and eating oatmeal and hope for the best. So good to read down to earth information. Thanks.

Gayle Dedelow

Never thought I’d have so many doctors while I’m trying to stick around until I hit my 90’s. But I’m trying to stay positive about this!

Paul Brustowicz

I am surrounded by folks within 10 years of my age (74). Ailments I have heard about in the last two weeks are, in no particular order: torn meniscus, bulging spinal discs, cardiomyopathy, torn ACL, arthritis of hip/knee/hands, atrial fibrillation, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, sciatica, hearing loss, macular degeneration, broken hip/collarbone/elbow/rib, concussion, various cuts, abrasions and bruises from falls.

Some folks live with the pain, others go through the Medicare process of step-by-step before the final test can be done to determine a symptom’s cause.

I know one woman who refused a ride in an ambulance after taking a tumble on concrete steps that left her scalp bleeding. When the EMT’s told her the cost of ambulance ride, she insisted that her husband drive her to the hospital. Not that she couldn’t afford it, to her it was principle.

I have been following all the popular health advice in a quest to make it to age 93: two pieces of dark chocolate every day, a glass of red wine every day (okay maybe two glasses), Tai Chi, olive oil, a handful of nuts, eight hours of sleep, no junk food, three meals a day, stay off ladders, and prayer.

One more ailment: my tennis elbow that was caused by using manual hedge clippers. I am adding no yard work to my list for a healthy long life.

    Ken Pidcock

    That no yard work commitment is a very wise decision.

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