It is a wonderful privilege to grow old. I am approaching my 72nd birthday. It will be in two months’ time and I am amazed when I think about all those years. I say that it is a privilege to grow old because it is something denied so many.
I find it somewhat distressing when I hear of so many who don’t reach their 70s, or 60s or even 50s. It is also so sad when people of much younger years die before even reaching middle age. While it is tragic when illness takes a young life, it is equally tragic when it is caused by an accident. This year there have been so many deaths in Australia as a result of car accidents, for example.
One of the interesting aspects of ageing that I didn’t expect concerns my mental state. For more than a decade I have observed that I don’t mentally feel my age at all. This attitude changes periodically when I try to do some hard physical work such as gardening. Then I really do feel my age! And the resulting aches and pains are constant reminders that I need to take physical activity in smaller doses.
Another interesting aspect of my personal ageing is my appearance. It seems that I have always been blessed with a youthful appearance. Over recent decades, various people have estimated my age to be ten or more years younger than my actual age. That’s a nice thing to tell me. Only yesterday while chatting with my eight-year-old granddaughter, she said that I do not look like I am nearly 72. Bless her little heart.
Teaching young children
I think that having a younger mental attitude comes from spending 35 of those years teaching young children, mostly those in the 6 to 10-year-old bracket. Now in retirement, I have regular contact with my grandchildren – ages 8 and nearly 11 – and this also helps to keep me mentally young.
I am writing this while I am staying with my son and his family. Over the last two Sunday afternoons, I have also had the privilege of taking my grandchildren to a nearby playground for a few hours. They have ridden their bikes while I drove my car; it’s too far for me to walk. Interacting with them as they play and invent games and challenges on the playground equipment is so stimulating to both the children and me.
Even when we don’t go anywhere, we often spend time in their backyard. They have an old, gnarled mulberry tree which they invent adventures while climbing. They both have very fertile imaginations. They also play other games, especially while on their much-used trampoline. Watching them play, and interacting with them during their playtimes is deeply satisfying to me. Once again I realise that these privileges afforded to grandparents is a delight denied so many people. I especially feel for those who may be estranged from ever spending time with grandchildren. Or those with no prospect of having grandchildren.
Challenges of ageing
However, old age does have its many challenges. All those aches and pains, regular doctor and specialist appointments, far too many tablets to take and a general slowing down in physical activities are the downside. I prefer to look at the many delights and privileges of growing old.
I would love to hear from my readers in the comments section about your delights and challenges of ageing.
I had a question posed to me today.
A somewhat disturbing question.
A question which, if taken literally, is very confronting.
If nobody is reading this blog – do I really exist?
Yes, it’s a question that has been posed in various guises over the years, but I’ve never really had it personalised in such a way.
I just hope I can sleep tonight.
Confession time: I thought I was smarter than that!
What brought me to this startling conclusion?
About three months ago I replaced my old mobile phone. When I say old, you’d better believe it. It was nearly 20 years old and I was reluctant to get rid of it because I was on a very cheap plan. I mean, how many phone companies offer a $10 per month plan these days? I went into a local well known phone company’s retail outlet and they looked up details of my plan. The manager – all of 20 years of age – wasn’t probably even born when my old phone was being made. I’ve never seen a plan THAT old, he quipped. Made me feel positively ancient, like I’d borrowed it from Moses or Noah. Perhaps Methuselah.
I then bought a new, you beaut, all the bells and whistles smart phone. Beam me into the 21st century, Scottie. (Mmmm.. that illustration is getting a little old too.) Cost me a small fortune, it did. But I was cunning – I did the modern thing and got a good bargain by buying it online. Thoroughly modern me. It arrived in the mail a few days later, I inserted the new SIM card – boy, had I got a good deal on the plan from my internet provider – and went to charge the battery.
I waited, and waited, and waited. It wasn’t charging. All weekend. That’s not right, I thought. Eventually a friend discovered that I hadn’t put the back cover on properly. Doh. He said I mustn’t have held my tongue right.
That changed everything. All systems go. So over the next month or so I was on a very steep learning curve, adapting to using the new device. Remember the ‘good old days’ when phones made and received phone calls? I discovered that this new ‘phone’ did so much more than that. Photos, SMS, internet access, games, email, Facebook, Twitter… and that’s just for starters.
In fact, I suspect that I’m only using about 5% of its potential. There are so many icons I afraid to press – just in case it does something very odd – or expensive. In fact, the phone is so smart it does things without me giving it permission. That’s scary and just a tad worrying.
Despite all the fancy bells and whistles, I can still make and receive phone calls.
It is so satisfying that some things remain the same – in a rapidly changing world.
I am currently reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society written by Mary Ann Shaffer. I borrowed it from my daughter more than a year ago and have just managed to squeeze it into my very demanding reading schedule. Actually, I have been wanting to read it for some time. It took a little while for me to warm to the format – a series of letters written from the various characters to other characters in the story – but once into it about 30 or 40 pages it really grabbed me. The letters range from a sentence or two through to many pages, recounting the lives and experiences of the eclectic gathering of characters who experienced the German occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2 as well as a few in London during the same time. It’s an absorbing insight into the lives of ordinary folk in extraordinary circumstances.
The letters have set me to thinking. In these post-modern times we appear to have lost the gentle art of letter writing. In an age where many people are writing more than ever before – emails, Tweets, blogs, Facebook status updates – we rarely take the time to actually take pen to paper and physically write a letter. Even the birthday cards are quickly scrawled messages and our Christmas cards have a quick message plus often a chest-beating, look-at-my-family typed and printed in gaudy colours newsletter.
This is a great pity.
There is something wonderful about receiving a hand written letter from a friend or family member, especially those living in remote places from our normal circle of activity. The effort taken to actually take the time to hand write a letter is considerable in these instant times. And then to Snail Mail it? Well, that could take days to arrive – or more. How many homes actually have a supply of postage stamps any more? Or writing paper and envelopes for that matter. I also despair at the trend in our schools to no longer teach physical handwriting skills. I foresee a generation developing who cannot put pen to paper, let alone actually write a letter. Our language will suffer and drown under an ocean of SMS messages and Tweets and degenerate into a series of communicative grunts.
I think I’ll go and write a letter to my brother – but first – I’ll just Tweet about it.
On Friday last while waiting for my wife to come from her appointment I went for a cup of cappuccino in the hospital coffee shop. I lined up to be served and the lady behind me suddenly asked if I’d like a free cup of coffee. It’s not something that happens every day so it took me a little by surprise. She explained that she had plenty of vouchers for free coffees and was pleased to share one with me. I agreed, and then struck up a short conversation with her while waiting for our coffees to be ready.
This random act of kindness got me to thinking; what if everyone set out every day to display one act of random kindness to someone else, preferably a stranger? What a better world this would be?
How about it?
Here’s the challenge: try doing just one act of kindness to someone else every day. Not only will those people be especially blessed by your action, you, too will be blessed in amazing ways by making this world just that little bit better, kinder and friendlier.