‘Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many’ – Anon
What do I know about ageing? I’m not even 40 yet, so is it really something I’m qualified to have an opinion about?
Well I do know a few things.
I know that I now consider the term ‘Happy Birthday’ to be an oxymoron – what could possibly be happy about getting yet another year older?
I know that I’m physically past my prime. My body is clearly starting to age and it is noticeably different from in my youth.
I know that in medieval times I’d easily be one of the oldest people in the village by now. In the 1400s in Canterbury, England, the average life expectancy for a monk was just 22 years old, despite having better nutrition and sanitation than the general population.
I know that age is relative – my 5 year old daughter thinks I’m extremely old and currently thinks I’m 66 for some reason. To an octogenarian though I’m a relative spring chicken.
I know that a preoccupation with ageing is not necessarily related to the age you are. Many people in their nineties are very content and accepting of their age and the life they’ve lived. Others in their twenties may be greatly distressed by the passage of time and the slow but relentless tick of the clock that marks what they feel is their inevitable decline.
I don’t think you are ever too young to start to come to terms with ageing and finding meaning in growing older. My hope is that by starting now I’m gradually beginning to accept an inevitable process that will continue for the rest of my life.
Successful ageing, as with many things in life, is about your perspective; being grateful for what you have (more years under your belt) rather than what you no longer have (your youth).
Of course it’s difficult to be cheerful about the toll that ageing takes on our bodies. Who looks forward to heart trouble, arthritis, dementia, osteoporosis, cancer?
But given that life comes to an end for us all one day, surely it’s better if we’ve got as much use from our body as possible before this time.
If I was to crash and write off a car, I’d rather it was an old beaten-up car with 300,000 miles on the clock, covered in dents and scratches, a knackered out engine and starting to fall apart with rust. Better this than a shiny new car, still full of potential with many miles as yet undriven.
And so it is with my body. I’ve fallen off horses, carried and given birth to babies, sunbathed too much, lifted heavy furniture, and eaten too much sugar. And given my sweet tooth, I’ve really not flossed my teeth enough either. All of these things have left their mark and, to some extent, taken their toll. But I can’t regret them.
My body is starting to feel old and worn because it’s been well used. It has carried me through 37 years of life so far and counting.
In reference to the quote at the beginning of this post, when I think about ageing I find myself reflecting on it and feeling grateful that I have even reached the age that I have. Many people don’t live long enough to have children. Some never reach their 18th birthday. Tragically, there are babies who don’t live for more than a few hours.
We all have the same number of days in this world before we reach any specific age – it’s what we do with those days that counts.
How can I envy someone younger than myself – they may have their youth but they’ve not had as much life as I have.
‘Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative’ –
Maurice Chevalier, actor