Episode 15 - Growing Old Gracefully

The modern cult of youth promotes a life where we do our utmost to delay the effect of ageing. It is considered a compliment, for example, to call someone who is mature in years ‘young at heart’. I reflect on why this is and how we can make the aging process itself a positive experience, rather than simply a paler version of youth.

In parallel with whistfully looking back to their lost youth, many people seem to yearn for a golden age ahead and treat their lives as a preparation for retirement when, it is supposed, we can really enjoy ourselves. There is nothing wrong with making preparations for the latter years of our life, but to make retirement the time when we can try to relive our youths as a goal in life seems destined to disappoint us - it’s almost treating retirement as a secular afterlife, with the period we work as purgatory.

The answer would seem to be to prepare for our ultimate end, union with God in heaven, first and to equip ourselves to continue to do as as get older. With the spiritual life, if we are on the right road it is a happy place to be. Christ is both the Way and the destination. This means that we must prepare not only for our decreasing capacity to earn money, but also our declining physical and mental capabilities. If we develop spiritually then at some point our spiritual life may be the only thing from which we can derive happiness.

I am now in the autumn of my life (I’m 56 years old…late summer perhaps?) and have reflected on such things. In this discussion I describe how l have been helped by looking to mystics such as St John of the Cross for guidance and reflect on observations of how my grandparents and parents dealt with aging and approaching death. This includes seeing my mother die of brain cancer just over three years ago.