I certainly couldn’t. At our LCS retreat, we were asked to write about what we thought we would be doing in about sixty-years time. To say the least, it was quite daunting. Some of my fellow peers looked around at each other slightly nonplussed. Where do you see yourself in ten years? Doable. Where do you see yourself in twenty? Exciting times. But at eighty? Lord knows.
Much of what we think we know about aging has been immensely distorted by popular media and societal standards. We’ve all heard the stereotypes—old people are mean; they’re lonely and depressed; you’ll become infirm and forget everything! Fortunately for all us, these labels are far from the truth. A) Personality remains relatively consistent over our life course B) Most seniors maintain close relationships with their families and friends C) 70% of physical decline is connected to modifiable behaviors and only 5% of people over 65 have Alzheimer’s.
Contrary to popular belief, 36% of elders live alone and are independent. Only about 4-5% of them live in an institutional setting. In reality, aging constitutes a diverse demographic of individuals who utterly defy their stereotypes. Body-building grandpas? Mountaineering grandmas? Aging is truly a testament to the human experience. It proves that no matter what stage we enter in life, we adapt to the circumstances and find ways to flourish.
As I learned about these facts and figures, I realized that my mind had been attuned to the idea of “Live Fast, Die Young.” Everywhere in the media, it’s being shoved down our throats that to be relevant, to be respected, we have to be young. It’s the misconception that youth gives life meaning. Even if we slow down towards the end, we can still grow. We can still learn things. Indeed, living to a ripe old-age gives us the opportunity to rest and reflect. We’re able to think about the life we’ve led, and how we may contribute our wisdom to the budding generations.
There’s nothing scary about being old, or being slower than usual. It’s a natural process that we all must go through and the less we fight it, the closer we are to dismantling and de-stigmatizing the fears surrounding old age.
Life isn't about how fast you can go, but how much you can grow.