The Joy of Growing Old

How Ageist are you?

I think that there is a problem with the concept that we seem to have in relation to age and ageing. Age seems to have become the thing that people fear and wish to avoid which is strange because it is the one thing that will, to some extent or another happen to us all.

The crazy thing is that you never actually get there, you never ‘really’ become old. As my adopter Grannie would say, “it is just this body that doesn’t work, I am really 18 inside”. It is all to do with perception. Whatever age you are now those younger than you will represent youth, while those older than you will represent age, it is all relative.

Once I did some consultancy work with a privately owned company. It was run by a 92 year old woman who had been doing so since her husband died ten years previously. Her son, aged 72, ran the office. While in discussion with her about sending out some flyers she said to me ‘you’ll need to talk to the boy about that’. At 92 I guess that 72 represents youth.

Equally to the fifteen year old someone of thirty years can seem old. I can remember being at secondary school and the feelings that we had of total disgust when a mother of a friend, in her thirties, became pregnant. It seemed revolting to us that such old people should still be having sex, ‘how gross’ we all thought.

It seems that as a society we have learned to value youth, or that which is behind us, and fear age or that which is ahead of us. The drive to stay looking young through cosmetics, Botox or surgery gives a value to youth that we deny to age. This has tragic consequences for our futures. Because if we learn to dislike age and attempt to avoid our ageing and getting older, as we all shall, we are likely to move into a state of self dislike or even disgust in later life. This can lead to us hating the last part of our lives and risk falling into depressive and miserable states.

But, there are other ways to be. How about we reverse the process and learn to value age again? In the 1960’s Roger Daltry from the band The Who sang the song ‘my generation’ he sang the line “I hope I die before I get old”. Interestingly he is now experiencing later life himself at the age of seventy. I wonder if he sees himself as old or if that is what is ahead of him?

So is seventy old? Well, current statistics would suggest that Roger has at least twenty years left, and may be more if he looks after himself. The average age of death for women in the UK is approaching the mid nineties, with men a few years younger. But, that age expectation is increasing all the time with one in four people alive now being expected to live to one hundred plus.

Ok, so you are going to get older than you are now, how does that look? Positive or negative? If you look backwards how does that feel? Do you crave to have again what you had before? Or are you happy to embrace your advancing years with joy, happiness and expectation?

What is good about age?
Age represents knowledge, experience, insight, and understanding. Maturity, for some a dodgy word, represents a calm way of looking at life, less stress, more fun and happiness. Of course those that have taken time, when younger, to attend to their own fulfillment will be reaching their goals as they get older. But then there is life long learning. Perhaps ageing begins when we stop learning.

Why retire?
Even if you get to the point where your life career ends why stop working? If life is for learning and that never ends then keep going, stay young active and be happy, whatever your age?

Take care and enjoy your life
Sean x

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