I had a birthday earlier this week and since I’ve now reached an age where the candles cost more than the cake, I started to think about growing old and how we age.
Most people don’t want to think about their coming decrepitude and frankly, you can’t blame them. Bette Davis once famously said, “The young don’t know it yet, but old age ain’t for sissies”.
Did you know that the risk of a driver over 80 having a fatal car crash is 3 times higher than that of a teenager? Old folks have poor night vision as the amount of light reaching the retina, decreases with age.
The elderly tire easily, their sense of smell diminishes, their teeth fall out and their skin dries out. Their sweat glands can’t function which is why the elderly are so susceptible to heat stroke and exhaustion. Hair grows grey as you run out of the pigment that gives hair it’s colour. You will lose 3 inches of your height.
Does all this talk of growing old, sound too depressing for you?
Well then, have a read of this…
“The other day a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback, for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed but I explained that it was an interesting question and I would ponder it, and let her know.
Old age, I’ve decided, is a gift.
I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body… the wrinkles, the baggy eyes and the sagging butt. And often I am taken back by that old person that lives in my mirror but I don’t agonize over those things for long.
I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less grey hair or a flatter belly. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more kind to myself and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I don’t chide myself for eating that extra cookie or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to overeat, to be messy, to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with ageing.
Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 am, and sleep until noon?
I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 60’s and 70’s and if, at the same time, I wish to weep over a lost love… I will.
I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the bikini set.
They, too, will grow old.
I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten … and I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when a beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn grey and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn silver. I can say “no” and mean it. I can say “yes” and mean it.
As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.
So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been or worrying about what will be.
And I shall eat dessert every single day.”
So to whoever wrote this, I say “thank you”. It’s the nicest gift I’ve received in a very long while.
Always remember… growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional.