My relationship with death remains the same. I am very strongly against it. — Woody Allen
FAIRFIELD — Funny man Woody Allen’s quote has been reprinted in dozens of print outlets since he made the statement at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival at age 74.
After running through a litany of woes concerning aging, he said, “I would advise you not to do it.”
Allen isn’t the only one not wanting to deal with the aging process and eventual death. But whether it’s an actual fear of death or the fear of living dependent upon someone, the aging process isn’t going to stop.
“You can’t stop the march of time . . . a lot of people worry about that,” said Dr. David Danzeisen, chief of the Adult and Family Medicine Department at Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in Fairfield.
For Fairfield resident Mayrene Bates, a Solano County Office of Education trustee in her 70s, time might march on, but death isn’t on her radar. She said it’s because she stays active, moving and involved. She allows that if she were “homebound or less active,” her perspective might be different – giving her more time to think about the inevitable.
“I read this fantastic quote,” she said. “It said, ‘I always thought that death happened to other people’ and that’s kind of the way I’ve gone through life.
“Even though people around me, who are my age, are dying all the time, I’m sort of like that guy. It’s not going to happen to me but it’s actually ridiculous.”
While Bates can’t remember who said the quote, she does have her husband, Jim Bates, 81, to remind her that death will come. And who knows when?
Jim Bates and a younger sister are the only siblings left out of eight in his family. He said he’s always been a “fatalist” and said his way of thinking was “predetermined” by how he grew up – poor, black and from the South – and from being in the Air Force.
“Life is not promised to me. Death is coming one of these days,” said Jim Bates.
He said he’s healthy, busy, enjoys life and “happy to be alive another day.”
He chuckled at the differences between his thinking and his wife’s thinking and said, “I don’t know where she’s coming from. She’s out in left field without a glove.”
Jim Bates isn’t off base when he said his views on death are precipitated by his life experiences. As aging occurs, perspectives shift with a variety of influences such has health, social and family support or losing a loved one, said Dr. Amber Stirlen, a psychologist at NorthBay Medical Center.
“That might shift (thoughts),” Stirlen said of losing a spouse. “I wasn’t thinking about death before, but here it is now in my face.”
Religion also plays a part in how death is viewed.
” . . . The reality of death is certainly a major part of my life,” wrote Celeste Bond, 72, in an email to the Daily Republic. “Life on Earth is temporary compared to the life with Christ, which is eternal – forever.”
Danzeisen said the people he sees are a mix of opposite perspectives on death, like the Bateses. While he said it’s healthier to accept death’s eventuality, it needs to be done without being a pessimist.
“You don’t want to be a fatalist to the point of being a pessimist but you want to be realistic,” he said.
There are some things that can be done to stave off aging symptoms. Stirlen recommends keeping the body and mind active with reading, hobbies, exercise and mind games or puzzles.
“If you’re active, you’re going to experience less of those aging symptoms,” she said.
But aging is still going to creep up and its first indication might be when that rather young restaurant employee gives you an unbidden senior discount. It happened to Cyndi Wright, 57, of Rio Vista. She wasn’t pleased.
“Even the word senior isn’t flattering,” she said.
Her husband, who is eight years older, doesn’t share her qualms and happily tells restaurant personnel he’s a senior.
“I will not do that,” she said. “I refuse to believe I look like a senior so why would I do that?”
But the wake-up calls that tell her she’s getting older keep coming.
“I don’t really want to admit it but, yeah, it’s there,” she said.
While she lays claim to a hefty dose of vanity, she has no issues involving herself in “senior” activities and belongs to a dance group called “Prune Juice Follies.” She says she has no plans to go under the knife to stay looking younger and owns up to her “crow’s-feet.”
“I count them. There’s nine,” she said, laughing. “There I am.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.