On Sunday afternoons, in a Thai restaurant, I normally take time to sit down with and talk to this group of aging men about life. It’s interesting that they listen a lot to me even when I’m not yet a “senior citizen!” Growing older fills their minds. Yet they seem to feel uncomfortable talking about it. What is it they may be trying to cover up?
I wonder if it’s not the simple truths William Shakepeare once wrote about in “Macbeth:”
“All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances …
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Growing old can be a prison of anxieties. Many worry that despite their successes or wealth, they’ll just fade into oblivion and be forgotten. They fear loneliness. Many get afraid about losing their mind, their memory, or capacity to live independently. Many have full of regrets for not having lived as they should.
Our culture conspires to make it more difficult for us to grow older in rewarding ways. There is a whole commercial business devoted to helping us cover up the physical symptoms of growing old. Cosmetics, drugs, surgery, or other commodities tailored to the elderly gives the message as if being young is the only way to exist. Medical technology and advances aggravate the situation with false, unrealistic promises of immortality or “fountain of youth.”
We don’t have to be wounded as we grow older. We can have a realistic perspective about it. It can present us an opportunity to deepen life’s true meaning and purpose. Aging can be a gift, but only if you surrender your self to God’s plan for your life. You can find peace in old age rather than rage when you know that Christ has already conquered death (Romans 6:23).
As noted psychologist, Dr. Erik Erikson put it, “The way you ‘take history’ is also a way of ‘making history’. ”