Those who know me will recognize this phrase probably used so often that its originial intention to amuse has worn off a little! I have had a rather mixed day not helped by very heavy rain all night which kept me awake – my room is at the top of the building so it felt that I could hear every drop. Never mind ‘you’ll sleep well tonight’ as my grandmother was often heard to say.
I have been preoccupied today with the ever growing body of literature on what is termed Successful Aging – not a concept that is immediately attractive, though the questions that surround the discussion are relevant to every one of us regardless of our birth age.
Here is the problem. We largely problematize old age – the myth of the scientific management of age construes the problem of aging and demands that we do something to slow up the process. Our cultural representation of human aging is wholly comprised of loneliness, dispossesssion, disempowerment and the fear of death. We fear ageing and even deny it. We are constantly offered solutions in the form of creams or tablets or other life preserving aids. At a human level most of us would like to turn the clock back and live some of our earlier years over again. Why are we encouraged to remain as young as possible forever? Should we master the ravages of old age or accept the opportunities growing older brings?
We need – I think – to explore ageing in the context of our connectedness, our human ordinariness and in the context of our years. We need a different framework – a richer understanding of growing older. This is something that we have attempted to embody in the Foundation of Lady Katherine Leveson ( www.leveson.org.uk) – our hope and vision for St Marys Church Temple Balsall is to build a place where these matters are reflected on and celebrated. We are not people who apologise for older people!
We live in a culture that is relentless in its hostility towards decay and dependency. Could we become part of a movement that will require tolerance and incongruity because it can allow space for the paradoxes of later life? Of course growing older isn’t easy – but it is a source of wisdom and suffering; spiritual growth and physical decline, strength and vulnerablity. There is something precious and valuable about our older friends. Modern society has evolved into an age segregated society in which most older people do not occupy avital role. We do not value the ageing of the mind, body and spirit. Worse, the Church offers no moral endorsement or meaning to growing older. Can we envision age with a different lens?
All ages of life are equal in God’s sight – there is no one age that is better than another. We need each other – old, young and those in middle years. Each stage brings its challenges and opportunities and each person needs friendship for understanding and perspective for each stage of life. Above all we need not to think of old age as irrelevant or burdensome. A wise old person retains the capacity for growth.
I hope and pray that we can all resolve oursleves to recieve from older people.
In old age they still produce fruit
they are always green and full of sap
Psalm 92: 14
I am grateful for the space here to ponder these things. I hope you will too.