aging, not old

I hear people, mostly women in their 50s, say they are old. I am astounded by this. We live in a youth culture. I want to tell them about the stages of life…that they are not old, but merely transitioning from the first half of life to the second, which if done mind fully is so much richer than the first. Ages 40-60 are sociologically classified as mid-life; 60 and beyond as elder life. I certainly don’t want to denigrate anyone’s experience, but the truth is that aging is a process we are engaged in from birth onward. It is not the same as old. Further, the term old has been replaced with elder, which can have a nice ring to it. (So much nicer than senior citizen!)

We grow older, not old—older. I am pleased to say that very often the process includes a bit of wisdom—the older we get the more experience we have. If applied thoughtfully, experience can produce at least a modicum of wisdom. Each decade has its own hallmarks—highs and lows—but the trajectory for all living things is conception, birth, bloom, fade, demise. I propose that the latter 50s and 60s of a person’s life is a fading, not into demise, but into new bloom—or second bloom, if you will. (Sociologically, we may have the baby-boomers to thank for this.)

Now in my early 70’s and feeling more rather than less, I propose the 70s may very well be the doorstep of maturity or the beginning of insight. Whether it is or isn’t, my experience is an awakening to the precariousness of time. I see endings now rather than distance and time becomes precious. I think back to my mother at this age…her joys, sorrows and pervading loneliness. I did not understand any of it. I was 40…building my life and blithely ministering to my own needs. I could not understand her because I was not developmentally able to do so, yet I could have tried. I could have listened. I did not. I regret, and am shamed by this egocentrism.

I could babble on, but I’d be late for my InterPlay session, so here’s what an elder in training has to say to all the 50 year olds out there who fear 60: Each decade will be a bridge to the next station of life; and every now and then you will be really glad to have experience and wisdom in your back pocket. Practice a healthy life-style. Wrinkles are not important. Only babies are wrinkle-free.

4 Responses to “aging, not old”

  1. 1 Anne
    October 31, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I’m so glad you are addressing this topic. I think you’re right when you say we may have the baby boomers to thank for the idea of a second bloom. However, being born early Jan. 1946 I am in the forefront of the boomer generation which are entering the age of Medicare. I am still trying to adjust to what that means in terms of how others perceive me. I don’t feel old – most of the time – although the phrase “having a senior moment” does ring true more often than I like. And, there are certain financial benefits with senior discounts that I am happy to take advantage of. Still, I find the whole aging process a strange phenomonon – the passing of time with weeks and now years sort of blurring into one another. Sometimes I have to think hard about what month we’re in. Winter is approaching, a season that often depresses me with the long hours of dark. Soon I will once again be sending you birthday greetings after more than 39 years of knowing you. Time. They say it marches on. And with time, it seems I grow more nostalgic. Because I have a tendency to take it for granted, as if there is an infinite amount of it left, I need to better heed your wise words when you say “time is precious.”

    • 2 Naomi
      October 31, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Anne. I didn’t know how the subject of aging from a personal perspective would come across to the public. I welcome your comments gratefully, and of course acknowledge with even more gratitude, your continuing friendship. We have the aging thing in common, don’t we? There is something about losing people we love that wakes us up to the preciousness of time.

  2. 3 Bob Buzzard
    October 31, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Thanks for this entry. Each week when I participate in our Wednesday noon anti-war vigil at the Goshen court house there are 4 or 5 women and a number of men who are older than you and me. One woman is 97 and another from whom I often get a ride from place to place is 90. I certainly would not call these women “old women” and they are certainly not standing in the way of progressive change in the world or the church.


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October 2011

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