Posted by: ritagone | October 17, 2012

Growing Old Gracefully

I’m teaching a series this month on growing old, aging well, and what Scripture and life can teach us about this process.

Have you noticed that some people age well, and some don’t?  What’s the secret?  Why is it that we know people in their 90’s who are beautiful souls, vibrant and energetic, with a positive attitude and a zest for living, while many others shrivel up even in their 60’s and seem to have no reason to keep on going?

What makes the difference?  Health?  Possibly.  Certainly someone in bad health, someone who doesn’t feel well on a consistent basis, is changed by those physical feelings.  You know yourself that a bout with the flu or even a bad headcold can make you wish your life were over.  Multiply that by feeling unwell every day of the year for a few years…well, you get the picture.  Financial insecurity.  Most definitely.  If you don’t know how or if your bills are going to be paid, whether or not you can continue to live in your home or choose where you will then move, it unsettles even the solidest mind.  Spiritual awareness?  Obviously.  Growing closer to God is one of the many ways in which we guarantee moving into old age with equanimity and grace.

I’ve read quite a few books – both secular and religious – about aging this past summer as I’ve studied to teach this series, and it’s amazing how similar they are to one another.  There are certain principles, it seems, that growing old adheres to no matter whether that aging person is a believer or not.  Of course, I believe that a firm belief in God – as opposed to being an agnostic or an atheist – always stands you in better stead than a belief in nothing.  It stands to reason.  As we get older, we start to face our mortality.  We start to think about the possibility of life after death, and so a spiritual belief helps us face that unknown much better prepared.  We want to find purpose and meaning in our lives, and this usually comes from a level of spiritual relationship with divinity.

“Growing old is not for the faint of heart,” it has been said.  And it’s true.  However, you might say that it beats the alternative, which is no heartbeat at all!

And so each day passes, we age a bit more, our bodies rebel minutely.  The mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be.  And yet there’s a glorious joy in remembering decades past, in seeing the consistency of life lived well.  In all of the books I read this summer, the elderly gained great joy from memories of their past, even, ironically, if that past contained much unpleasantness.  Just the fact that it held their history was enough to make it rather magical and wonderful.

There is much about growing older and about being older that is actually quite marvelous.  I really don’t think I’d want to be 20 again if offered that opportunity.  And that’s quite a revelation that struck me as I studied and prepared for my series on growing old.

W. Somerset Maugham said it best: “Old age has its pleasures, which, though different, are not less than the pleasures of youth.”

 

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