For someone your age . . .

I’m disabled but in denial. Why is that?

Steve Buissinne/Pixabay Steve Buissinne/Pixabay

You know you are old when your doctor says, “For someone your age . . .” At 68, this happens to me regularly.

It seems I am required to lower my expectations for my body a little bit each year. Still, I’m in denial.

My joints ache, I can’t jump anymore, my hearing is impaired, my short-term memory is spotty, I take medication for depression and need bright light to see clearly. Yet I consider myself healthy. Certainly not disabled.

Why is that?

One definition of disability is any condition — cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical or sensory — that makes it more difficult to do certain activities or to interact with the world.

By this definition, I am disabled. Why don’t I ever think of myself this way?

Many of us resist getting hearing aids, using a cane or a walker or taking medicine for chronic conditions. Again, why?

I believe older adults (including myself) resist using equipment that marks us as disabled and resist the label “disabled” because we unconsciously think less of “those people” and do not want to be one of them.

News flash! Those of us who are aging are experiencing decreases in our abilities and in the expectations of those around us. We are disabled.

Rather than denial, it would be healthy to reflect on our tendency to distance ourselves from people who are not like us and to consider them somehow less than us.

Can we admit we are disabled? To do otherwise is to say to people with more identifiable disabilities, “I don’t want to be in your group. Your group is not OK.”

We can do better than that. I hope admitting our disabilities will open the door to understanding the barriers that people with disabilities face and we can join them in breaking down those barriers.

Peter Graber of Elkhart, Ind., is a retired communications and fundraising professional and board president of Anabaptist Disabili­ties Network. A version of this article first appeared in ADN’s newsletter, Connections.

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