Even more of your thoughts on growing older
This is the fifth in our series of articles exploring how people in the near, at or over 80 age group think and feel about getting older and being old. The first four articles have elicited an interesting response, both from contributors themselves and from people commenting on the contributions printed.
Dear Reader – if you are in our age group, I am sure you have input that would be interesting, and helpful, to others. If you would like to either contribute yourself or comment on contributions already printed, please email your thoughts to me at email@example.com. I will acknowledge every contribution and send a final compilation to all contributors. Your replies will be kept anonymous, because I want your frank, honest and completely open views. I only need to know your gender, nationality and area of residence (presumably, the Algarve).
A selection of your responses follows:
An English woman living in the Algarve
Old age is something that we are born to expect, just like dying. We come into the world, live in it and either love it or not – then leave it. It’s a passage of time which we all experience, some with more pleasure than others. It’s up to us as individuals to make our life, no matter what our circumstances are … it’s our life. We make mistakes and we rectify. We try to do the best we can and help each other on the way. My final words to you are, “old age is a privilege”.
An American man living in New York City
My comments to your question are affected by the fact that I am still working. I do my morning exercises and get to the gym as often as I can. I am trying to turn over my practice to the attorneys in my Department. However, it is very difficult to do so since I have known most of my clients for many years and many are now friends. I also like the revenue.
I agree with my wife that these are not the ‘golden years’ but the ‘rusty years’. I have had to give up skiing and do not have the energy to do a lot of things I used to do. However, I will not give up golf. I can still handle 18 holes. I think the most important thing for me to do is to remain positive, which is easier said than done.
I have no advice for my friends except to enjoy each day that is given to them.
An American man living in San Diego
As I reflect on ageing (my own), I’ve discovered a sort of “double-edged sword”. I am a retired clergy person (Episcopalian) and technically have been since 2001. At first, and for an extended period of time, I experienced a great sense of loss. For over 50 years, I was wedded to the Altar and Pulpit and missed those weekly opportunities for presiding at services and even found myself in the pew, silently critical of others’ “performance” in the sanctuary. I also missed the day to day contact with those who I had been called to serve.
In retrospect, I missed being needed. When I attended clergy gatherings, I found myself a sort of “stranger in a strange land” as the interest in issues and age gap with fellow clergy widened. With the passage of time, my energy declined and trips to the various “ologists” increased. In sum, I was again searching for the meaning of my life in these transitional years.
Over time, ageing, for the most part, has evolved into a vocational calling. I have been able to reconnect with family in more meaningful ways, so much so that we moved to be near some of them two-and-a-half years ago.
We now live in a retirement community which bills itself as “Independent Living” (kind of a misnomer as we are provided with two meals a day, housekeeping service once a week, maintenance of our apartment and a secure environment).
My fellow residents represent a wide spectrum of society and we are forced to live together with our differences (might be a good model for our culture at large), but we do have ageing and health issues in common. Ministry is requested of me by a much broader constituency … a real joy to engage with other Christians, Jews and many with no formal religious commitment.
I continue to learn in this last era of my life what it means “to live by conscious choice rather than social expectation” as Zalman Schachter-Shalomi put it, or in the words of our own Baptismal Covenant, to “…seek and serve Christ in all persons and respect the dignity of every human being”.
I believe our marriage relationship has always been strong but has grown stronger as we’ve aged. We are now in our 65th year together and are both grateful that the two of us are still alive and able to do some caring of and for one another.
In sum, ageing has its ups and downs, but I have found that, out of the downs, there is a possibility of a new and fulfilling life.
An American man living in California
My initial thought:
“Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”
– Dylan Thomas to his dad, who was on the way out
Your request obviously requires more thought, but off the top of my head:
Please give me the mental capacity and energy to make the most of what I have left in the tank
Also, what needs to be weighed are:
Time left and what you do with it – and thoughts about what happens next
In that case:
Paint, paint, paint …
Write and read and think
After that, perhaps Lucretius had it right in his “Nature of Things”: namely, we are made up of atoms and that is where we are going. Candidly, I think there is merit to this, but I would like to believe there is an afterlife.
Oh yes, one more thought, from Thornton Wilder:
“But first: Wait! One more look. Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners? Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking? and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths? … and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – That’s all human beings are! Just blind people.”
As Edith Piaf famously sang
– “Je ne regrette rien”
By Larry Hampton