I have now passed seventy and for me at least, that is a meaningless number. It doesn’t ‘feel’ like seventy, but what should seventy feel like? Well, when I was young I had an uncle and aunt who were old and doddery (well he was at least) and I would guess they were in their late sixties, but they looked really old. But I don’t feel really old. Perhaps the truth of it is that my mind doesn’t feel old. Mind and body? How different are they?
I wonder if our minds are more active today because there is just so much more to demand the attention of my mind. I find the news pages that accompany Windows 10 absolutely amazing and the photos are out of this world. And so stimulating. Recently I’ve been trying to make sense of the oil prices and the turmoils of the Middle East – and you can do that because the information is there. The shear scope of the Internet is incredible and it provides a wonderful field in which to browse and feed your mind.
But there are so many things today that can feed our mind, in a whole variety of ways. My wife interrupted me just now talking about a puzzle she had recently finished and was now putting away. It was a Kinkade with another of his romantic cottages, with light coming out of the windows, but to describe it like that is to understate it. As she spoke about how difficult it was, and yet how rewarding, she also spoke about the different areas with different shades and different brush strokes; it was all active mind stuff. Whether it be answering questions on afternoon TV quiz shows that go from the ultra-
On the physical side I ache and live with a small measure of pain and I have a grouse against the older generation who failed to warn us, when they got there first, what growing old was like. I’ve probably said it before on these pages somewhere (thus proving a need for those memory games!!!) but I regret taking my health for granted all those years. I can remember Saturdays when I went out into the garden and worked for twelve hours with just a short break for lunch and only felt mildly weary at the end. Today I dig hard for an hour and a bit and need to sit down for a coffee, pause and reflect on the wonder of nature for twenty minutes before I’m ready to deal with the next bit. That IS aging!
Of course we take for granted the medical advances that have taken place in our lifetimes that mean we can keep going so much better. If I had lived a hundred years ago, IF I had managed to reach this age, I would almost certainly be half blind and in a wheelchair. I am just so grateful for modern surgery and modern medicine. Whether all the tablets and vitamins we take really do help, I’m never quite certain. One school of thought says they are a waste of time, while another school says they vital to good health. I have also noted that in the last year of so, the Government and local health authorities are very much more proactive in getting us to think more about how to take care of ourselves.
But then comes the conundrum about aging and health. Despite all this wisdom and knowledge and help from the government, people do still die at random ages. It has happened more than once recently, when the news of the death of some celebrity appears on TV and I’ve thought, “Oh my goodness, they were about five years younger than me!” And yet, unless we are faced with a terminal illness, I am certain that most of us don’t believe we are going to die tomorrow – but we could! Death still remains the great unknown and because it is so, we tend to ignore it and pretend it won’t happen to us.
And of course then there are that increasing number of people living to be over a hundred, and that fact reassures us and we think we might have at least another twenty years at least to go, if not a lot more. But then for some of us, we are confronted with a terrible question – what can I do to fill in those ten years or more? Heaven forbid that I should just vegetate in front of the TV. Is it too late to take up painting or some other hobby? Is there something meaningful I can do with the rest of my years? These become the genuine worries of aging in the affluent West.
Of course another problem, I have noticed, is there whereas once you read the Wanted Ads and thought, “I could do that,” reality makes me realise that actually the world has changed and I am out of touch, and anyway I am no longer up to the mental gymnastics that are required in many modern jobs. I could drive a van but imagine the conversation: “How old are you?” “Does my age matter in driving a van? I am reasonably fit (I swim thirty or forty lengths three times a week which is more than most of your drivers do) and healthy. What more do you need?” “I need your age.” “Seventy.” “Ah well, that’s rather too old to be a member of our staff.”
And we receive pension(s) and think what to do with life. We are considerably better off than a person my age fifty years ago. It’s a good time to be older and it may get better in the decades ahead – but it may not. ‘The economy’ is the all-
There are no ‘smart alec’ ways of guaranteeing anything when it comes to aging. There are some people I know who have always been very healthy, and led healthy and fit lifestyles and then suddenly, somewhere after sixty usually, things like a heart arrhythmia rings warning bells, or a stroke suddenly disfigures and doctors start sounding cagey about their future. Sometimes a bad lifestyle is clearly linked to bad health – but not always. Health and aging are like a roulette wheel where you never can guarantee where the ball will come to rest.
So while we look into the uncertain future, let’s ponder the wonders of having reached today without too many battle scars, see how we can do something significant and leave the world a better place than we found it. There are only two things I can guarantee about you and me: first we WILL get older and age and second… well, we’ve been there already so let’s just give thanks for every day and get the best from it that we can. It’s good to be alive isn’t it, whatever the age! Let’s finish, as we usually do, with some light-
“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”
― Robert Frost
“It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone.”
― Andy Rooney
“It`s not how old you are, it`s how you are old.”
― Jules Renard
“When my grandmother was sick in the hospital, I foolishly quoted her the saying, 'never regret growing old; it’s a privileged denied to many.' She glared at me and responded, 'spoken like a truly young idiot.”
― Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
If you are six feet above ground it's a good day. So, give me more!
What helps with aging is serious cognition -
Goldie Hawn (What did we say above?)
You have to embrace getting older. Life is precious, and when you have lost a lot of people, you realize each day is a gift. My advice: don’t waste so much time worrying about your skin or your weight. Develop what you do, what you put your hands on in the world.”
“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”
Gabriel García Márquez’s, novelist
Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life.
Daniel Francois Esprit Auber