Whether I’m in the pharmacy or in the health food store, I always see a cluster of senior citizens perusing the area of vitamins, minerals, assorted supplements and alternative offerings—looking for the magic combination of pills and capsules that might restore the robust, healthsome state of their youth.

Elsewhere in the pharmacy, in the aisle of painkillers, I always see an assortment of older people carefully studying the gallimaufry of nostrums there.

They’re in pain too, I think. They can’t wait for the vitamins, minerals and fish oil capsules to work. They need immediate relief. They’re just looking for a way to get through the day—or the night.

When you’re younger no one tells you about the pain that goes with old age. Or if they do tell you, you don’t listen. That’s too far away. Besides, we all think that old age (like death) will never happen to us.

A number of years ago I was taking an exercise class when the woman next to me groaned. “I forgot to take my Tylenol this morning and I’m paying for it now.”

“Do you take Tylenol every morning?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she replied. “I have to.”

How strange, I thought, why doesn’t she just fix it? Tell the doctor.

I look back now, and smile at my naïve outlook. How innocent. How inexperienced. How young.

It doesn’t just happen in an instant—the day you turn 50. It creeps up on you. One knee aches a little when it’s rainy. You remember an injury you had in that knee years ago. A shoulder gives you trouble and you figure you played too hard on the weekend.

Finally, one day, you realize that the little pains are not going away.

Eventually you understand that nearly everyone gets arthritis sooner or later—not just that peevish old aunt of yours.

You explain to the doctor. He nods knowingly, feels of the bothersome area. It’s warmer than other spots. He nods knowingly. “Yup, you’ve got arthritis,” he announces. He may write you a prescription, but he doesn’t offer anything in the way of a cure.

Other bizarre aches and pains come along—mostly unexplainable.

If you’ve got an infection, they can give you antibiotics. If you have a broken bone, they can set it. If you’ve got a deteriorated hip, they can replace it. If you have a bad heart, they can open you up and do a miracle repair job. But if you’re just suffering from the most common malady of all—the slowly crushing effects of old age, they can’t do much more than wish you well.

You’ll soon find yourself in the pain killer aisle. And you won’t be alone.

(c)  Ruth Minshull  17 March 2016