Monday, June 08, 2009

Growing Old--Gracefully?

I have been thinking about aging recently. I don't do this often. I am not in any way obsessed with growing older, but there are times in my life when the inevitability of aging wears heavy on my mind and heart. It isn't that the alternative is appealing either because I have no desire to relive youth, at least not without the wisdom I possess today, but lately I have been thinking about what it means to age gracefully.

I remember when my mother was the age I am today. I thought she was old. When my grandmother was my age—she was ancient, but when I look at my peers, they don't appear old to me. On the contrary, I think my friends are more active and in better mental and physical shape than they were years ago. We hold memberships to the health club, or at least have purchased Wii Fit. We buy whole foods, and take a multitude of vitamins and herbs researched to make our lives healthier. On the other hand, we do converse more about individual aches and pains than we did when we were young, although we speak equally of current events, politics, theology and education. We read books about how to keep our bodies and brains active over the latest John Grisham novel, but even that is not unusual. So what’s the deal with getting older?

My mother turns 70 this year, which seems impossible to me. Her life is inspirational. At 70, she still teaches kindergarten at an intercity school that boasts a 98% minority/95% poverty rate. The only signs of aging I see in her are that she complains more about being “tired”—well, I think she has earned that privilege. She walks on a regular basis, reads veraciously and remains active at her church. At times, she has more energy than me. She just doesn’t seem old to me, perhaps she really isn’t. Maybe age IS relative.

I am a better mother now than when I was younger. I know I am better wife than I was in my 30’s, and am convinced I am more conscious about my health than I was then. I don’t; however, obsess about the outward signs of aging as much the internal ones like the inability to remember someone’s name I ought to recall or where I put my car keys.

Aging gracefully has more to do with one’s mind-set than anything else. Perhaps what needs to be measured in aging is the significance found in the now; those who are touched by how we live and the value we’ve added to the world. As Joan Baez so eloquently stated, “You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now.” That’s aging---gracefully.


Rob said...

I'm not going gracefully.

I've been installing hardwood floors for the past week or so and, let me tell you, for a desk jockey it's physically punishing work. I ache in places I didn't know I had.

Hard to believe, but I actually said to my boss today words to the effect that I'm "planning my exit strategy" in like 6 to 7 years. HUH!

Where did the time go.

Like you said, I figure I'm better in a lot of ways than when I was younger and I have no wish to "go back" and relive those times. But, still, I think the saying goes that "youth is wasted on the young".

Anonymous said...

Having never done anything gracefully, I have no illusions about aging.

Maisy said...

When my Mum was my age, I was 6! (I'm 47). My mother didn't seem to age until she was in her 80's and Alzheimers hit.

I don't fear ageing, I fear illness and infirmity.