More thoughts on growing older
Since my column last week, I have been pleased, appreciative and hugely gratified by your response to my invitation to offer up a few words about age and ageing, and how it looks from your viewpoint. Over 35 of you have contributed so far. Your ages range from 77 to 90 and average about 82. Your comments were considered and thoughtful, often profound, sometimes frivolous, occasionally humorous. You are an optimistic, positive, thankful bunch – there’s very little complaining, expressions of regret or second guessing. And no fear or anxiety over the trip into the unknown that we are all going to be making.
If you would like to contribute, please email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will acknowledge every contribution and send a final compilation to all contributors. A selection of your responses follow.
An English man, of Scottish descent, living in the Algarve
My great grandfather used to say: “Auld age is naething but a blithering nuisance”. He was quite right. As I get older, I often wonder what could have been. Should I have chosen a different career, a different path through life, or should I have done what I have done, only better? If I look what I have left undone, would it have made me happier or more satisfied to have done better? When I look at my failures, I feel a little depressed, but when I look at my successes, I am rather surprised and feel better.
The greatest good fortune is with my family, who have made the whole journey so worthwhile. I’ve been lucky to have kept my health. Should I try harder at the gym? Old age means slowing down – one cannot do what one used to, but there is still a lot that can be done. It is important to keep one’s mind active. Languages, engineering, maths, science, music, learning. Art I’ve tried to appreciate but have almost given up and remain a philistine.
I’ve seen a lot of the world but missed out on keeping up with school and even University friends. You never get something for nothing. I ponder on the universe. With all our scientific knowledge, how can one believe in a greater being, but if one doesn’t, why have any belief in the need for a code of ethics? Simply because without one, the world would be in an intolerable mess? Or is it a fundamental human need, ignored at your peril?
I remember my parents telling of watching their city burn during the blitz, my father off to the army the next day, my mother pregnant with me and wondering if they would ever see each other again – but, many years later, telling me that my generation had a more difficult future than theirs! Actually, we never had it so good!
As for death, it comes to us all, and I’m not fearful. It will come when it comes and there is not a great deal we can do about it, except accept it with equanimity. We can hope for an easy exit but, hopefully, not for some years yet. It amazes me that I knew my great grandfather well, and he was born in 1852. Our youngest grandson should last till 2102, which means that people I have known will have spanned a period of 250 years, which I find unbelievable!
A Canadian woman living in the Algarve
How lucky I am, at my age, and with the world in the chaotic state it is and the amount of poverty and desperation among refugees, to live in freedom with clean air and space and quiet around me. I go to sleep in a warm, comfortable bed, I have enough to live on and occasionally indulge in a holiday. I live with a wonderful man in peace and contentment.
I have learned to accept that my body will not do what it used to be able to do and that what I used to do automatically I now need to think about, but if I don’t get upset but calmly think and exercise and take care and rest without accusing myself of being a sissy and giving in, things work very well.
I may not be able to garden for three hours at a stretch, but I can do an hour if I listen to my body and stop when it tells me to. Gardening is for me a psychological necessity. I need to be in contact with the earth, otherwise I am not grounded and go into depression.
Reading and challenging my mind with deepening my knowledge of subjects I am fascinated by, for example archaeology, and doing a codeword every morning at breakfast to start my brain thinking are important.
An 81-year-old English man living in the Algarve
The other day I was at a drinks party and there, amongst a crowd of people, was an old man, at least 80. I started talking to him and said, ‘What’s it like being old?’
‘Bloody awful’, he said, looking at his empty glass. Anyway, he cheered up as the glass was being refilled. ‘Yes’, he said ‘awful’. I have to take a buggy when I play golf, I don’t like walking down hill, it hurts my knees, and I am not allowed to climb onto the roof’.
All I could ask was ‘How do you manage?’
‘Well’, he said, ‘I get out of bed when I like, I do things with friends whose company I enjoy. I get into the pool when the weather gets too hot or sit in the shade and think of things I should be doing. I have a glass of wine to forget my aches and pains and do not think too much about the future’.
After a few moments’ thought I said, ‘Well, I’ll drink to that’.
An English man living in the Algarve
My first thought is that we are blessed to be alive and in reasonably good health. There are many dear friends and family who have departed early and are no more.
I am blessed with a strong Christian faith, which was with me when I was growing up but faded during my middle years. I am so pleased that my faith has been rekindled in recent years and I know that there is a life hereafter which I shall pass to when my years on earth are finished.
As I look back over my four score years, I believe that I have been fortunate enough to have been on earth during the most fascinating decades. Tremendous developments in medicine, dentistry, tele-vision, communications, transport, computers – almost anything you can think of. Longevity is now the norm with immense advances in bit part surgery, drugs, surgical techniques and skills.
The downside is that we have developed weapons of mass destruction which can destroy the world in a trice if the wrong button is pushed; we have gases and poisons; we have IT techniques which can cause immense damage in a cyber war and we have maniacs in control of many of them.
Are we leaving the world a better place than we found it? No, I think not, as there is far too much poverty, religious wars, tribal wars and never-ending stories of murder and torture by extremists. The world is still a place for the haves and not the have nots.
As Edith Piaf famously sang – “Je ne regretted rien”
By Larry Hampton