They don’t know what they don’t know.
One of the problems with aging is that the conversation is controlled by people who don’t have a clue what aging really is- the young. It’s as if old age morphs normal human beings into a new species which is completely alien. Some old people become useless , incapable of comprehending how to function, They are also irrelevant. Call them homo obsoletus because who cares what they think. It is a completely understandable perspective for the young.
Until they get old.
Society’s attitudes and policies toward old people are created in ignorance by people with no experience- the young. They are humane and well-intentioned, in general, but their purpose is to make life easy for themselves, not to help old people fulfill their destiny. To youngsters today, old age is a curse that they don’t want to think about and a burden because, like it or not, old people just won’t go away. They hang on and complicate life for everybody else.
The overriding attitude about getting old today is ‘why won’t you just go away and leave us alone?’ What is even more amazing is that some people on the cusp of old age embrace this concept and separate from the world voluntarily.. Thus we have the old age ghettos of Sun City and the Villages where people apprentice for their coming irrelevance by embracing a second childhood.. All this carefully managed recreation is only a stop on the road to the old folks home where you no longer have to worry about what to do or expecting anybody to visit you. Somebody explain to me why sentient beings would choose to close down their life long before it is over. I don’t get it.
I don’t know how it happened but over the course of my lifetime old people have been redefined from an important cultural anchor for society to disposable party favors. Grandparents are nice to have from time to time but a damned nuisance otherwise. Old people today are expected to be neither seen nor heard.
I understand because it is how I thought about aging a few years ago. Today I see it differently. A few years ago when my parents were still alive and my kids were still home, I was ignorant. I could see the aging process in my parents. I tried to understand and empathize but mostly I just coped. I didn’t know. I watched my parents drift away without making the effort to understand what they were experiencing or recognizing that I would soon be in their position.
Like my younger self, youngsters can’t get their heads around the physical reality of aging. They don’t believe that it will actually happen to them. The young mind refuses to acknowledge it’s own aging, denying the physical deterioration even though each year that denial becomes harder to justify.
Denial eventually is impossible
At some point the reality hits. Denial becomes impossible and the true test of life begins. You face the truth. You are old. You begin to ask the important questions. What good are you? What justification can you find in struggling on with your life? Does anybody care? This is a painful and humiliating process, finally accepting old age after decades of denial. Some deal with it better than others. Many wilt with this acceptance and meekly surrender to decrepitude and dependence. Others just give up and expire. A few refuse to go quietly into the dark night of senility. They aren’t ready to go quietly. They still have work to do. You can’t have a life well-lived without a strong finish. Life shouldn’t end with a whimper at the eighteenth hole on the golf course..
Of course in the end, it makes absolutely no difference. Life on earth is finite. At some point the perceived advantages of continuing to exist start to lose out to the difficulties. If you held your mission to the end, then you can claim victory. Old age is when you finish what you started. Old age is a necessary part of life. A wrap up of your life experience; a fulfillment of your youthful promise; and inspiration for those still in the hunt.
You aren’t done yet!
Unless you face the challenge of old age, your life is an unfinished symphony, three movements with no ending. So don’t fear old age or swerve from it’s challenge. Accept the inevitable but use the lessons you learned through life to create your legacy. Cement the relationships of your life and create memories to keep you alive. Learn and grow and continue to embrace new experiences and knowledge. Society may not appreciate old age but don’t let the ignorance of the young keep you from finishing strong.