I’ve been sifting through past interviews, and this morning brought me to 92-year-old pianist Irving Fields (introduced here). Fields had had a hip replacement a few weeks earlier, but you’d never have guessed it. He hoped to be back on the golf course soon, and was having no trouble handling his nightly gig at Nino’s Tuscany on West 58th Street. “I go out the back of my building, walk 30 steps to the left, go up four steps – which I can do now, without a cane – and I’m at the most wonderful job I’ve ever had,” Fields reported happily. Not that unusual, I reasoned. These days really old people skip rope the morning after hip replacements. But open-heart surgery? Here, too, the old old are not just surviving but thriving. And do women fare post-opeartively as well as men.
Two new studies reported by the Associated Press show that more and more eighty- and ninety-year-olds are getting open-heart surgery “with remarkable survival rates rivaling those of much younger people.” “Of course some are not good candidates, but treatment guidelines for open-heart surgery do not have age cutoffs. “Age itself shouldn’t be an automatic exclusion,” concurred Yale cardiologist Dr. Harlan M. Krumholz. No longer are the ailing elderly being consigned to a bottle of pills and a pat on the hand. It’ll be interesting to see how this tracks across other medical conditions as the population ages.