Aging well and gracefully

Column-Henrylito-D.-Tacio-Photo

Life’s Lessons

By Henrylito D. Tacio

AFTER watching Hollywood actor Cary Grant (Archibald Leach in real life) on a television broadcast, his mother, then in her 90s, reprimanded him for letting his hair get so grey.

“It doesn’t bother me,” the actor replied carelessly. Rebuffed the mother: “Maybe not, but it bothers me. It makes me seem so old.”

The above story came to my mind after reading this anecdote from 1000 Stories You Can Use. The old fellow, let’s call him Jack, was celebrating his 100th birthday. “To what do you attribute your longevity?” inquired a curious friend who is only in his 60s.

Pausing for a moment, Jack said proudly. “I never smoked, never drank alcohol, never overate, and went to bed by 10 in the evening and was always up by 6 in the morning.”

“That certainly is to be admired,” said the friend, “but my grandfather did the same thing and he died at 60.”

Jack replied without hesitation: “He didn’t keep it up long enough.”

“Age is not a particularly interesting subject,” Hollywood comedian Groucho Marx averred. “Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.”

“Age to me means nothing,” said film actor George Burns, the oldest actor to receive an Academy Award for his performance in The Sunshine Boys. “I can’t get old; I’m working. I was old when I was 21 and out of work. As long as you’re working, you stay young. When I’m in front of an audience, all that love and vitality sweeps over me and I forget my age.”

Fashion model Linda Evangelista agrees: “I don’t think age is an ugly process. I think age is a beautiful thing. I love wrinkles. I don’t like falling down. If I just wrinkle, I may not touch. If I fall down, I’ll lift up.”

Old age consists of ages nearing the average life span of human beings, and thus the end of the human life cycle. Euphemisms and terms for older people include advanced adult, elderly, and senior citizen and pensioner. Older people have limited regenerative abilities and are more prone to disease, syndromes, and sickness than other adults.

Being old doesn’t mean they are no longer useful. And so it came to pass that the old clock-maker had been put out of business by the new electronic watches. He was out of work and destitute.

One day, walking along a back alley in town, he noticed a pile of old clocks on a dump heap behind a jewelry store. They were clocks of all shapes and sizes and colors, in every degree of despair.

He begged the jeweler to give them to him and let him try to get them going again. So with a couple screwdrivers and some oil, he set to work, and began to pick their insides. Suddenly, one of them began to tick. He polished the case tenderly and set it upon a shelf. One after another, the clocks responded to his seemingly magic touch. They began to tick – to come alive. Only a few were hopelessly beyond redemption.

“Old clocks are symbolic of old age itself,” someone commented. “It must have a purpose in life – and then the old heart will tick again, long after it is supposed to have stopped.”

A lot of older folks have made contribution to their nation and to the world. Winston Churchill was prime minister when he was 81. Clara Barton headed the International Red Cross at 83. Robert Frost wrote famous poems when he turned 80. Oliver Wendell Holmes was a chief justice when he was 90. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright died his best work at 86.

As Chancellor Conrad Adenauer of Germany was approaching the age of 90, he got a bad cold. Even his personal physician could not help him much and Adenauer was impatient with him.

“I’m not a magician, sir,” protested the doctor. “I cannot make you young again.”

“I haven’t asked you to make me younger,” answered Adenauer. “All I want is to go on getting older.”

Sir Francis Bacon states: “Age appears best in four things: old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”

When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (too bad, we can’t call him Long for short) was in the twilight of life, his head was covered with white, but his cheeks were red as apples. One day, an admirer asked him how he managed to stay so vigorous and to write so beautifully in his old age.

Longfellow pointed to a blossoming apple tree and then declared, “That is a very old tree, but I never saw prettier blossoms upon it than those it now bears. The tree grows a little new wood each year, and I supposed it is out of that new wood that these blossoms come. Like the apple tree, I try to grow a little new wood each year.”

By 2050, more than 2 billion people or roughly one out of five people will be elderly (60 years old or over) and one in every 10 person will be aged 80 years old or older. That’s according to World Population Aging 2013 Report of the United Nations.

To be old is a gift. So, how should you take it when it comes along? A friend once gave a copy of the following prayer to the captain of the majestic Q.E.II. He framed it and often showed it to visitors. It read like this:

“Lord, thou knowest that I am growing older. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject on every occasion. Release me from the craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it.

“But, Lord, I want a few friends at the end. Keep my mind from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

“Seal my lips about my aches and pains. I dare not ask for the grace to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

“I dare not ask for improved memory, but for less cocksureness when my memory is challenged.

“Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably mild tempered. I do not ask to be a saint — some of them are hard to live with – but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.

“Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people.

“And give me, Lord, the grace to tell them so.”

Vital Signs Issue 88 Vol. 4, June 1-30 2016