“You’ll be old one day” was something my mother said. I hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. Being old is the furthest thing from your mind when you are twenty; after all why worry when it is somewhere in the distant future? It’s one of those things pushed down with a heavy boot should it rear itself. Youth has time on its side, work, fun and love is usually the main focus for the day. However it is crucial that the young do consider their future aging process. The young should look towards their old age rather than away from it. Everyone wants to live a long life but no one wants to be old and unprepared.
With increasing medical science helping us live longer and stay relatively fitter a problem has been solved whilst creating another. Our generation were usually not health aware, many of us smoked and drank and ate all the wrong things but now we have it shown to us by the power of the media what we should and shouldn’t do, we are educated every day as to how to keep healthy and live longer so we have the opportunity to grow old gracefully. Well that’s what they tell us; however sometimes the advice is contradictory, eat eggs then don’t eat eggs. One day there is such a thing as brain food then there isn’t. Do exercise but don’t over do it, taking statins is great but then it isn’t. Have a glass of red wine everyday but take two days off a week. Da!
Is this how I am supposed to feel as I get older or is there something wrong with me? Am I supposed to experience tiredness and fall asleep after my dinner? My doctor assures me I am fine. I look in the mirror without my reading glasses I don’t look so bad, with them on I look as old as God! Perhaps this is why we get short sighted so that we can view each other as forever young? I hate it when my beloved looks at me with his glasses on because I know he can see the signs of aging etched into my face whilst at the same time recognising that it works both ways. I suppose that’s alright then. There is no training for growing old only being with elderly, grandparents and those we meet on our daily travels. In the main I think it is part of youth to try to ignore the elderly, maybe sniggering behind the back of some old lady in the queue at the supermarket or an old couple walking down the road holding hands. Of course many are respectful and caring but I ask myself why then, in hospital are the elderly so often treated like lepers?
At least growing old is a process rather than an event, how terrible to wake up one morning twenty years older. That would send you mad. However, thankfully, it gradually creeps up and thus hard for us to call ourselves old instead we discuss ‘getting older’ which is the first step on the ladder. Being ‘old’ is the next, followed a few years later by the final stage of ‘elderly’.
It is not so much what you see in yourself but more about how you are perceived by others. I think it’s hard for our children to accept us as getting older and it can be frustrating because then their expectations are often too high. They maybe find it difficult to accept deterioration in energy or stamina becoming frustrated with us when we do not have the ability to keep up. Along side which, there could be an attitude of seeing us as not as bright, indeed many will address the older generation as if somewhat stupid. Perhaps the young take a stance of superiority which could be a form of defence because aging scares us when we are young as if from some kind of infectious disease.
Many of the retired generation here in north Wales spend time doing voluntary work and indeed some organisations depend heavily upon them but sadly in my own experience, some organisations discount the abilities and the professional histories of their older voluntary workers. Reliant upon them, whilst at the same time discounting what skills each has to offer from their past experience. It seems to me that retirement is waste personified when skills both life and professional are ignored by society. I do recognise we need to make way for the young but why encourage us to live longer when we are seemingly mounting in numbers and apparently costing the state a fortune. The government need to take stock not just of the cost of pensions but how the older retired generation, especially those who still have the health, can be of value to the populace.
It is a wonderful thing that each generation will live longer than the last but what is the point if they are cast off and thrown into a wasteland where they are not revered but forgotten and resented. Of course there are those who are repelled by the onset of their own old age, and we see those in the media struggling against time. Nowadays we observe celebrities and movie stars having ‘work’ done in trying to stay looking young. Would I do that even if I could afford it? I don’t think so, in reality it doesn’t matter because in the end being old is a state of mind and if you tell yourself you are too old to tackle something new then you will be.
Granted some days I feel and look as old as time itself by midmorning coffee I have upped my game, by lunch I am improved by about 40% and raring to go. Someone once said when you are in your twenties you don’t care what the world thinks of you, at forty you start to worry about what the world thinks then by sixty plus you realise the world isn’t thinking of you at all.