One reason no one wants to age is that we have so few examples of people thriving in old age.
Old age narratives are of loss; loss of beauty, mobility, strength, flexibility, independence, intellect, memory, relationships etc. Old age narratives are of separation from the flock, of weakness, sickness, depression, decline and … death.
Talk about a downer.
Getting old is like going to the front line of a war and knowing that you can’t ever come back. You stay there till you’re shot.
And that explains it. Of course we don’t want that, and we don’t want to be around people who are not only on that front line, but who are not dealing with it well, old people who complain and are impatient, intolerant, cynical, resigned or depressed.
A metaphor for ageing
Ageing may be a natural process but so is another deadly phenomenon: falling; and we do that every day in ways that are fun, healthful, exciting and routine. Walking is a controlled falling; we run, jump rope, mountain-climb, sky-dive, dance, trapeze and on and on it goes.
I think falling—like in sky-diving—can be a metaphor for ageing; a slow motion falling where we’re moving away from some things and getting closer to others. Ageing is a falling away from things like strength and physical beauty towards a physical end, yes, but on the way there we can collect and experience peacefulness, compassion, wisdom, artistry, helpfulness, contribution and of course love. And the longer we’re in that ageing free fall the more of those beautiful things we can collect and experience.
How we age is the choice
Yet many don’t, because while the moving away from the trappings of youth are mandatory, the moving towards the gems of ageing is optional. Despite popular belief, wisdom, compassion, purpose, and peacefulness does not come naturally to the old.
Ageing is mandatory but maturing, growing wiser, more peaceful and compassionate is optional. It’s a lifestyle practice committed to before you’re old.
And if we want to experience a great, thriving, flourishing old age we have to begin when we’re not.
Otherwise we’ll age like a sky-diver trying to get back into the plane he jumped out of, instead of enjoying the ride and the view all the way down. And by the way, the sky-diver knows the ground is not really the end, but only a new beginning or at least a return to where he came from. What’s not to be at peace with?