Understanding Age? Face the Future….
It has been a great pleasure to offer a Forward to this stimulating contribution the literature on old age by the delightful William Cutting
Foreword – (Face the Future. Book 2. Challenges, Joy and Faith for Seniors)
Like many of you reading this book I am thankful for my satellite navigation system. It is one of those advances in technology that has helped us all to move with confidence to our desired destinations.
However I regret the loss of maps and have happy memories of holidays in Europe with friends where a map was shared between us. We often turned it around and looked at it from different angles until someone discovered where we were going! On our journey it can be interesting, demanding and sometimes even fun getting lost. Perhaps we are constantly in the process of finding and re-finding our sense of direction.
If this is true for a geographical journey perhaps it is also an analogy we can apply to other aspects of our life journey. We shall need some kind of direction, a map, company and sources of information, wisdom and challenge.
I reflected on this journey analogy in my experience of working alongside a vast range of individuals and groups considering and reflecting upon the nature of age. Many fear the possibility of indignity and loss in old age. We wonder what we may become. We might reflect on the relationship between our younger and older selves. On our journey ageing offers us an opportunity – of becoming more fully ourselves: more, and not less, individual. Ageing, at each stage of life, can be actively enriching.
In order for this to happen we need to consider the nature of age and what shape age might take in us. We might think of ourselves like wine connoisseurs laying down bottles that will improve with age; fostering in ourselves spiritual qualities that deepen and enrich over the years. Perhaps those who age best are those who travel lightest, who can let go of some thought patterns which might have been helpful at one stage of life but need discarding when they are ill-suited to another. A certain suppleness of spirit is needed. A certain sense of zestfulness and adventure is also required if we are to face the ageism present in others and ourselves. Those who study the process of growing old have puzzled over this unique feature of ageism: that it is a prejudice against one’s future self. It is fuelled by our inability to look at the map, ask others and embark upon the adventure of older age.
In all of this William Cutting proves himself a trusted companion on the journey. This book is the second in a four part series addressing a range of topics – most specifically here the challenges, joy and faith for seniors. It builds upon the inspiration of book one that shows us how older people can inspire and offer us wisdom. It is honest about the difficulties and the vulnerabilities of getting older but has a tremendous sense of adventure, engagement and transformation.
I commend it most warmly as a trusted map from a wise man. I wish you a happy journey through its pages!
The Reverend Canon Dr James Woodward
6 The Cloisters, Windsor Castle, Berkshire SL4 1NJ
Canon of St Georges Windsor, author and teacher (“Valuing Age: Pastoral Ministry with Older People” SPCK 2008); www.jameswoodward.info