Mel Walsh: A few ‘health whiners’ give rest of us a bad name |

Mel Walsh: A few ‘health whiners’ give rest of us a bad name

Sometimes the stereotypes about older people are true. Well, at least true in spots.

For example, there are older adults who complain about their health, describe their operations in details that would make a monkey blush and whine about their bones, arteries and failing whatevers.

Most of us oldsters don’t indulge in such organ recitals ” we keep the aches and pains to ourselves or share it briefly with best buddies, but a few seniors broadcast to the world stuff like: my spleen is in trouble ” and these health whiners give the rest of us a bad name.

Nobody wants to listen to a walking, talking medical chart.

How to tell if you’re

a health whiner

It’s natural to share health problems with a few selected people for a short amount of time ” it’s part of the friendship script ” you tell me about your body and I’ll tell you about mine ” but even those who love us most are going to tune out when they hear the 12th recitation of what the doctor said and then what the next doctor said and what the first test results were and then what the next test results were and how they conflict and what the third doctor said and how the X-ray had to be repeated because the whatsis was all blurry and how you won’t take the generic drug because there must be something wrong because it’s so cheap and why are the lines at the drugstore so long and sorry, you can’t possibly cook dinner tonight as your elbow is out.

Cook’s Elbow ” a new disease and you discovered it!

Why the health monologues?

So why do people launch into these long medical soap operas? Self-centeredness? Expecting that the world has an interest in your current body boo-boo? Maybe. Or not enough to do in retirement? Maybe. Or trying to be interesting by draping yourself in medical dramas? As in: Look at me ” I have a very interesting body part?

Well, so do we all but we don’t write press releases about them.

Frankly, I don’t know why people take up the long public oration of body parts as a conversational habit and I could find no research on the subject.

But I would suggest if you are doing this ” rehearsing even now to lay your medical adventures on the next passerby ” I suggest that you take up another hobby, like making goat cheese or fixing up old Model Ts. Because focusing on what is wrong with your body is not a hobby. It’s an obstacle to enjoying life.

But share the serious stuff

Of course, if you have something seriously wrong with you, give the medical news to those who love you. And if you’re a stoic, a medically silent person, one who wouldn’t even let your mate know about a brain tumor, maybe you should consider sharing some of the issues.

Because two can handle a serious medical condition better than one. In fact, there should be at least two people on the team to figure out the best course of action, the treatments, the recovery and even the humble stuff like the insurance, the driving to appointments and the begging of the nurse for the next pain pill. Also someone has to be there to witness the time when you wake up in recovery, smile at the sheer surprise of being still alive and then throw up all over the loved one who has been with you through it all.

So, OK, you can tell a short story about that operation, but if you go much further and begin to mistake long organ recitals for conversation, your social skills may need to go in for a checkup.


The author of four non-fiction books, gerontologist Mel Walsh has a new book of advice for the 50+ woman coming out in April, “Hot Granny,” published by Chronicle Books. Write Mel at or at 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945. More info at

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