Old Age is Not for Sissies

Thomas L. Petty, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, 
University of Colorado

Chairman, National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP)


National Lung Health Education Program
A collaborative project with



HealthOne Center
1850 High Street
Denver, CO 80218
Phone: 303 839 6755
Fax: 303 832 8137
e-mail: nlhep@aol.com

Old Age is Not for Sissies

February 1994
PEP Pioneers
Second Wind
Torrance, California

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I spent a nice afternoon speaking to the Mile High Better Breathers Club of Denver, Colorado. It is a small group of "pioneers" very much like the PEP group at Little Company of Mary. Many of my own patients attend the monthly meeting. One woman sported a large pin "Old Age is Not for Sissies". I remembered this as the title of a book written a short time ago by Art Linkletter. I had not yet had time to read this book but I appreciated the apparently humorous message. But was it really humorous?

It was interesting that during the question period, following my talk, there were so many questions on pep and energy, whether or not vitamins will help, how to deal with tiredness and fatigue, and, of course, a lot of questions about the use of medications. I presented my philosophy that true old age is a failure of adaptation to life's challenges and as long as we can adapt even in the face of disease and with medications, old age can be postponed.

As I took my daily "health walk", I was thinking about another conversation I had with a patient who kindly invited me to lunch last week. This patient is greatly benefited by oxygen delivered by the transtracheal route. But he pointed out to me the amount of time and effort it takes to care for all of his equipment, his transtracheal device, his medications, and the time required to get to and from his exercise program. He said it was difficult at times to get everything done in a day's time, and it was unusual that he could get out and have lunch or dinner. But he was in excellent spirits and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch and a glass of wine, and philosophized about the future. "I've got to get out more often," he said, "I've got to find more time." We also talked about his pride and joy, his youngest son age 19 now enrolled in college. "I've certainly got to keep myself healthy in order to see him graduate from college," said this father, aged 75. "But it's not easy getting everything done, at my age."

On many occasions I have written about the preciousness of time and the admonition which was the title of my first presentation to the Pioneers group, "Remember to Live". In brief, the message is that in spite of all of the things that we are obliged to do to protect our health or deal with disease, we must save some precious time to create happiness for ourselves, our family, and our friends. We have to keep "fun" in the equation.

So I plan to get the book and read it carefully, since I recognize these challenges very well, not only in my patients and friends, but in myself. Adaptation is the key! And remember, take time to find a valentine for your sweetheart this year.

I'll be in touch next month.

     Sincerely yours,

     Thomas Petty, MD

Last update:
14 Octl 2002