Thursday, 10 January 2013

The fear of growing older

We've been programmed to dread ageing.  Media paints it as something that needs to be fought against and hidden at all costs.  In movies and sitcoms the old man or lady is usually a source of ridicule or amusement rather than wisdom.  Elderly people are often stereotyped as senile, out of touch and most insultingly of all to me, unhygienic.  And just as we've settled down after laughing at that elderly person, the channel you're watching will cut to an advert featuring an "anti-ageing" cream or some product that promises to help you increase or maintain your level of attractiveness.

Society has a biased view of ageing: We see the reduction in physical capability and attractiveness as the withering of our being, forgetting the greater knowledge, tolerance and appreciation that comes with living many years.  We may fade externally, but we grow internally.

If you dread ageing because you fear a reduced ability to look after yourself, then your concern carries weight.  It's true: Many don't have enough money for retirement and their worn bodies can't keep working forever.  But for all our faults, we as a species look after our aged better than any other group of animals.  Help (admittedly not always in the ideal form) is available.  Someone, somewhere will extend a caring hand to you if you're a senior citizen with nowhere to go.

Whatever your personal fears relating to ageing may be, just remember that many people don't get the opportunity to have wrinkles and body aches.  It's a privilege to get old.  Fearing ageing is like fearing the high tide: it's inevitable, it's natural and in the end, just a harmless, repetitive cycle.  Ageing is part of the cycle of life and death.  

While the young and middle-aged get to terms with growing old though, more reverence and old fashioned respect needs to be paid to the senior citizens who live with us today.  We stand on the shoulders of our forebears: our grandparents and those before them built this world we now enjoy.  They deserve and command our respect.

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