Robot Nurse Model
Made in Japan
Human in a Creepy Sort of Way
My Medicare Supplemental Health Plan Company has taken a position that may be typical of all these underwriters of senior citizen health needs these days – and who can blame them? For a few seniors, early dinners, no medical appointments, and bowel regularity are the trinity qualifiers for a great “fun on the run” spring break. For many others, life is about irregularity of sleep and bowels, multiple medical appointments and minor medical procedures weekly, being dry where you used to be wet, and being wet where you used to be dry. (The last two qualifiers were borrowed from the mind of the ancient, still wonderful comedic writer, Carl Reiner.)
What’s the fun of that? When genes, biology, aging, and life patterns of unhealthy behavior finally come crashing together at a single moment in time, life can radically change or totally end without a desire to live and a will to change what needs to change. So, Texans Plus (my HMO people) have devised a plan to reach out to still healthy seniors and try to reeducate some of us to life styles that will either prevent or delay the really serious stuff – like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
The problem is – they are doing it with a health news lady automaton that I have endearingly grown fond of calling in my own mind as “The Robot Nurse”. She doesn’t really have a job title, but I have come to the private conclusion that she’s in charge of the “Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks” department at Texans Plus.
In a moment of sweet irony this morning, before I left the house for my “day job” practice of psychotherapy, I lingered over hot tea long enough to catch a brand new call from the Robot Nurse: “Good Morning, valued Texans Plus member – and welcome to another edition of Health News,” she said. Today we are going to talk about Happiness. If you would like to hear our information, simply say ‘yes’ or press ‘1’. – If you are not interested, simply say ‘no’ or press ‘2’ – or simply hang up the phone.”
Somebody needs to tell the Robot Nurse that few of us still hang up phones these days. – We either punch them out or simply speak them away. – Also, I couldn’t get over how much the Robot Nurse reminds me of that female voice in the Starr Furniture ads on Houston TV. – Her articulation of words already smiles – and it also resonates through the air to our ears as though her mouth and speech patterns had been molded as the hangar and flight plan for the “bluebird of happiness”. – She just sounds different – by design.
I said “yes” and punched “1”. – Who’s going to say “no” to a beautiful female voice that’s about to reveal the secret of happiness to a 77-year old man who’s already too old for “cigarettes and whiskey and wild, wild women”?
“Good,” barked the Robot Nurse, “now let’s get started:
“Much of happiness at any age,” she said, “stems from holding on to physical behavior from the past that once made you forget about everything else for a short while.”
I concluded that the Robot Nurse had not heard what I just wrote to you about me now being too old for cigarettes and whiskey and wild, wild women – and I also can’t think of a single ball club in the world that needs a 77-year old center fielder, for that matter.
“Playing cards with an old friend can be fun too,” she said. “Why don’t you call up an old friend and plan a time to play cards? It may be just the fun you need!”
You really think so, Robot Nurse? – Maybe you and I have a whole different idea brewing about what goes into a fun game of cards. I’ll pass on “cards with a friend”, but does playing solitaire on the computer count as fun? I find it numbs the mind a little – especially, if you don’t start playing until about 11:45 PM!
About the only idea that Robot Nurse had to offer that made any sense to me personally was the one I try to do anyway, but haven’t been so good at lately – and that’s “walking”. In fact, I plan to go on a two-mile walk in the morning. That’s my normal distance when I walk regularly. I wouldn’t say it always makes me happy, but I do breathe and feel better “in the here and now” when I’m walking. – I wasn’t really expecting Robot Nurse to turn over the keys to either the fountain of wisdom or the fountain of youth.
Which brings me to my question of the day: Once you reach a certain age, whenever that is that you suddenly realize that you are finally in a room somewhere with a group of people – and that you are the only one there who was alive on the day that JFK was shot – it is time for you to answer: As an older person with a magical wish that would come true, but you had to pick only one of these two locations for making that guaranteed wish, where would it be? At the Fountain of Youth? Or at the Fountain of Wisdom?
Anyway, the Robot Lady finally got around to the serious business of the day. “If you feel that your depression or anxiety is making you sick, would you like me to connect you with professional help today?”
“No,” I answered, not today. I’m neither depressed nor anxious. – In fact, in my ‘day job’, professional help is what I am,” I added.
“I’m afraid I don’t quite understand your answer,” Robot Nurse replied, in her usual matter of fact way, before continuing, “If you feel that your depression or anxiety is making you sick, would you like me to connect you with professional help today?”
“Oh dear mechanically-hearted lady, my dear Robot Nurse, you machines just don’t appreciate that we humans know a lot more about getting older than you give us credit for understanding. Would you like a little clue? Well here’s a little personal rhyme for describing the worst universal enemy that all aging people have to face – and that’s loneliness.
Do you know how we know when are getting older and too lonely? – Read on. …
You know you’re getting older,
As sleep in a chair comes bolder,
When the winter winds blow colder,
And the head upon your shoulder,
Is your own.
We call it loneliness – and we each must battle against it in our own ways – but we must all each help one another as friends – in our battle against the common enemy.