I graduated from high school in 1950. Yes, that was 65 years ago, and our high school class is planning its 65th reunion for later this year. I am 82 years old. Some readers are probably thinking that I am really old, while others are chuckling and thinking, "You have a ways to go, yet."
What I'm driving at is this: I am definitely getting along in years, and there are many things I have learned about aging and am still learning on an ongoing basis. I am writing this blog with two purposes in mind: (1) in hopes that it will be helpful for older readers to know what others of us who are aging are experiencing, and (2) for younger people to know as much as possible about aging so they will be of greater assistance to their parents or other older people they are close to.
One of the great benefits of being older is that, as we grow into what is popularly referred to our "golden years," we develop greater knowledge of everyday life. We learn about the real "ins and outs" of life only by living through them ourselves.
For example, I now have a far greater understanding of the great toll that finding fault and holding grudges take on one's well-being and peace of mind. I have come to know how important it is to be less judgmental and more understanding of the mistakes that others make. Most of us would like to erase from our own memories, and the memories of others, several egregious things we have done in our younger years. This doesn't mean that we should just overlook bad and disappointing behavior; what it does mean is that as we become older, we come to realize that most of us humans need to be forgiving of one another's bad behavior.
As we get along in years, we realize that the opinions of others -- viewpoints that are in opposition to our own -- may, after all, have "some" merit. At least, those we disagree with deserve our trying to understand where they are coming from, even though we may not agree with them. In most instances, we are not totally correct and they are not all wrong. Perhaps we need more older people on both sides of the aisle in Washington.
A special aspect of aging is that, as long as we act our age, young people respect and look up to us for the lives we have lived -- for having gone through and survived involvement in several wars, for dealing with good and bad economic times, and, in general, for being able to hold our country together, although at times by only a thread. They come to us for our perspective on many subjects: for example, national and world events, rearing children, marital matters, weather and driving conditions, and how to fix things. On the lighter side, it is nice to hear a child say, "Nana is the best cook in the world" or "Pop knows how to fix anything."
There are, at the same time, some downsides to aging. Looking in the mirror or at the picture on my driver's license, I wonder who that old guy is. Yes, the years take their toll on how we look, stand, walk, climb stairs, get down on the floor to play with the grandchildren, and the struggle to get back up. Aging also presents us with disappointing changes in our mental capacities -- changes we deny as long as possible. We tend, among other things, to think more slowly, have trouble remembering names and events, overlook how we dress, don't bother to get our hair cut regularly, and resist accepting the necessary assistance of others.
When we are very young children, we are totally dependent on someone else taking care of us. As we grow older, we learn little by little how to take care of ourselves. Our parents or guardians make it their goal to teach us how to be self-sufficient, and we all know that many times as young people we clash with our parents.
As the years go by (faster than we expect), the roles of the child and the parent slowly reverse themselves. Eventually, it becomes the obligation of responsible younger people to watch out for the safety and general well-being of their parents and older members of their families. And just as was the case when we were young, there will be some disagreements and arguments. We older people do not like the thought of losing our independence.
Many of us remember the unpleasant task of having to tell our parents that it was no longer safe for them to drive their car or that it was time to have their children involved in their financial affairs, which finally included opening mail and seeing to it that their bills were being paid on time. These were difficult experiences for everyone concerned. And it will be difficult for us and our children when it comes time for our children to start taking over for us, a time that will require our understanding and acceptance. But this is all part of aging.
It is important to stay physically active as long as possible, and when it is no longer possible to be up and around, we need to keep our minds active. I see far too many people who, upon retiring, stop living meaningful lives. They go to bed late and get up late and spend more and more time plopped down in front of a television watching who knows what. It's important to stay challenged doing things of value to yourself and to others. I know several people who have become physically challenged, but keep their minds active by reading newspapers, talking with friends on the telephone, writing letters, working crossword puzzles, and so forth. In my opinion, nothing is more important in our aging years than keeping our minds active.
And, as hard as it is, we need to be accepting of the changing times we live in. Otherwise, we will be just grumpy old people that no one will want to have anything to do with.
Hopefully my comments will be helpful to readers in all stages of life.