Earlier this week I reached another seniority milestone – yes, my palindromic date of birth is hard to ignore: 4/4/44. Those of us who came of age in the glorious 1960s may find it difficult to identify with being old—we were the young generation who wore pins that said “Don’t trust anyone over 30”—but that’s who we are . Old beasts and old idiots exchanging talks about “the organ concert” (the current litany of health ailments).
et I find that there are many positive and joyful aspects of being old. As each day inevitably represents an increasing portion of the remaining time on this earth, waves of gratitude are felt for the beauty of nature, the kindness of strangers, the rewards of friendship, the comforts—as well as some of the fears. of family life.
This world can be a terrible place – Ukraine’s suffering is a testament to this – but it can also be a wonderful place. Behold the buds appearing on the trees for spring. How does nature know how to continue in its eternal cycle?
It is well known that early childhood memories come back later with vibrancy – one of the reasons early childhood experiences are so important – and sometimes with new insights. How much we took for granted when we were young—those of us who had homes, schools, family support, and friendly communities.
When I was seven I lived with a childless uncle and aunt – my mother was a struggling widow and I was a decidedly difficult child to control. Informal foster families were not uncommon in Ireland and as my aunt and uncle offered to raise me it was agreed that they should do so.
They were good people, but I never felt I had much in common with them—they were correct, suburban, punctual, tidy—which didn’t sit well with my wild, messy, free-roaming temperament. My aunt, for example, didn’t really like books: a woman from Tipperary thought it was “unhealthy” for a child to “stick their nose in a book”. Children should be outdoors in healthy, sporting activities!
But only now do I realize that although I reacted against this “bourgeois” regime, I never once thanked them for all the kindness they showed me. They paid for my education, took me to the dentist and optometrist, provided top quality medical care when I got primary TB as a teenager, visited me regularly in the hospital. They were dutiful and responsible people and I took their care and attention for granted. Only now do I feel the gratitude I should have expressed in her lifetime.
It’s easy to feel resentful and grumpy about the downsides you’ve encountered in life – but what about gratitude for the positive things?
The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung has reflected on the purpose of old age: From an evolutionary perspective, humanity does not need to survive past 40 or reproduce another generation. He concluded that old age serves to develop thoughtfulness – and to pass on the collected experiences to the following generations. Admittedly, future generations do not always want to hear the wisdom of the elders, but it can still add to the sum of human knowledge. An old person is a living archive of memories.
Growing old is a privilege, and gratitude for that privilege is certainly due. If a few ailments appear on the way – so what? “Offer it!” as we were stoically told before.
In most cases – not all – oldies belong to some kind of neutral gender because they are no longer in the mating game. This allows a certain social freedom. You can start conversations in all sorts of weird situations — people don’t suspect you’re being creepy or try to pick you up.
This is really nice.
Friendships can grow richer because sex is out of the picture. Rarely have I had so many male friends who are loyal, warm friends and good buddies, across different age groups.
As it happens, some of the most interesting and amusing people I know are Catholic priests in my own year: they’ve seen a lot of life and are the least judgmental people I’ve met, and they’re some of the most well-read.
Sure, old age has well-known drawbacks—Joe Biden’s forgetfulness and Bruce Willis’ aphasia are age-related disorders.
The world can seem upside down and confusing – I mean, why can’t I call a female drama performer “actress” instead of “actor”?
The pendulum of manners and morality seems to be swinging from one extreme to the other: words like “menopause” and “penis” were once considered improper in public discourse – today they seem to be mandatory.
But that has always been the case, and it is piquant to imagine that the young offspring of today will have exactly the same reactions 50 years from now. Life is a cycle and I am thankful for every aspect of it.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/yes-there-are-a-few-aches-and-pains-but-to-live-to-be-old-is-a-privilege-that-has-its-own-joys-41524273.html Yes, there are a few niggles, but growing old is a privilege that has its own joys