Choosing to Grow Old

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It seems that no one wants to admit they are growing old until the inevitable forces them to recognize that they can no longer do what they once did. Does this mean they are getting old, or is it merely a subtle reminder of an injury sustained many years ago? Surprisingly, some people choose to age, which is not to say they choose to grow old. They recognize the benefits of their golden years.

I injured my knee in an auto accident when I was in my teens. Sometimes I have a problem climbing stairs, but it is not because I am—at age seventy-three—growing old, or even older. It is because I have a “football knee.” This is a minor example of my positive attitude. It doesn’t matter why I am this way, but it has served me well many times in my life.

A friend is a few years older than I. Although she is intelligent and has lived a full life, she feels she is “old.” She worries about leaving the house because it may be dark when she returns, so she leaves several lights burning. In itself, it is wise to leave one or two lights on, but three or more is probably an overly protective gesture. She will not go out for a variety of reasons—it is too cold, too hot, too rainy, it’s time for the evening news, someone might call—and the Lord knows how many other excuses she can offer.  

Unfortunately, she is not the only senior citizen who feels this way and there are many reasons for this attitude, many of which may not be healthy or necessary. 

Many of our seniors feel they are no longer important to anyone; spouses may be dead or confined to a nursing home, children have married and moved across the country and they have watched family and friends die. Perhaps without realizing what they are doing, they transfer their caring of others to themselves, thereby providing a reason for living and an outlet for the human need to love and nourish others. Ironically, they are frequently limiting themselves.

One thing many seniors or people who live alone seem to have in common is their self-inflicted limitations. Such disabilities are a subtle excuse for not being able to do certain things, and therefore provide people with a reason to generate pity for themselves. They have not learned the difference between excuses and reasons.

There may be little we can do to change such people but if we know someone who exhibits such traits, we can help to some degree. A phone call or invitation to lunch may make the sun shine on an otherwise dreary day.   

We can, however, choose to become the proverbial “cockeyed optimist” and learn to color our own lives, as well as the lives of friends and relatives. What better gift can we give our children than aiding them in adapting this attitude to deal with life’s problems and disappointments? Some people may view this as an extension of faith because it is a form of knowing that—in the end—all will be well.

One of my cherished parental compliments was having my thirteen-year-old daughter state that there is good in everything that happens. We had just returned home to find ourselves homeless due to a fire.

Even when it takes considerable time to recognize good, we will find it if we can look through the pain of the moment.

Perhaps the chief reward of an optimistic viewpoint is living our golden years without any self-imposed limitations. To do so, we must simply make a choice to live our lives as fully as possible and enjoy every moment to the fullest. Is this a difficult choice?  No more so than many others, but the rewards make the effort worthwhile.


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