Aging ain’t easy but it beats being old. “Old” is a state of mind that lets go of – or loses – the energy that is life – and living! “Old” means “just doing time” on the way to meeting death while aging, for those who somehow avoid being old, is about making the most of whatever time is left.
Despite every morning’s inventory of the body’s arthritic aches and groans and confronting its reluctance to feel younger than its years, “agers,” not “oldsters” get to greet each day as a gift. Their fragility is real but they do not let it get in the way of what is ahead. Agers discover along the way that they can claim certain rights – things they would never get away with early on. Their spouses may wince a bit but soon learn to let be…or go along with.
For instance, the right to be shameless. Later years can free an ager from many of the “shoulds” and “have to’s” of social correctness and others’ expectations. Agers claim the right to be comfortable with themselves in most situations, even when others may not agree with their choices. Not that agers are insensitive to others’ feelings; they are simply finding a freedom busier years could not offer: wearing the same sweatshirt two days in a row, stains and all; talking to strangers as if they were old friends; repeating twice/thrice-told jokes and stories.
Agers also have a right to be harmlessly eccentric, to laugh about themselves, to walk like penguins, never rush, and share grown-to insights on the meaning of life. Despite built-in obsolescence agers find ways to compensate for dimming eyes and muffled hearing. Doctors and nurses practically become a social network, meds a five-course breakfast and evening snack as prescribed.
Still, agers have the right to keep going, to let their minds do the walking while they catch their breath. Crossword puzzles, sudokus, TV fare such as Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune become pastime playgrounds; politics a spectator sport selling a future they may feel they can no longer shape.
Agers have the right to remember, to celebrate themselves, lifelong loves and friendships while they can. They have the right to be grateful for a past that has brought them to the present, a place where they can do much more than time and live into, all the questions that keep them going.
Aging may not be easy but for those who will never be old, it can still be all about the energies of life – and living.