Ageing with Grace: It’s just a number

Dr. Sukhmani Singh

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art”– Eleanor Roosevel

Life cycle of an individual has different phases – Infancy, Childhood, Youth, Adulthood and Old age. As pictures of different phases flash our minds, we are apprised how vibrant, joyous and promising each phase is. Suddenly, we are appalled as to why does old age appear gloomy, dark and disillusioned by doubt. Like the falling of winter after every autumn, comes the calm old age after the vibrant adulthood. Ageing is common to all members of every given species. People are living longer than ever before. There has been a significant increase in longevity over centuries. Research shows that generally women have higher life expectancy than men. Often looked upon as deterioration in terms of physical, mental and social mechanisms ageing stands quite misunderstood. As a general rule, slight, gradual changes are common and most of them are not problems to the person who experiences them. Some systems slow down, while others lose their ‘fine tuning’. There is a visible absence of positive push in life. Psychological disturbances add to the fury of leading an isolated life namely ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’. 

Ageing is a natural process. Ageing begins the day you’re born. Misquoted by some as the age of ‘illness and disease ‘ageing is the serene silence after a bright sunny day. When much emphasis is laid upon decent development of all stages of life, why does ageing seem to be pushed to the backseat? If we prepare ourselves to grow well then why not prepare to age gracefully? Why not collect all accomplishments of life and make them quite a memoir to cherish? 

One cannot plan his arrival in the world, but can surely plan his exit. Then why not plan it the way you want. Attitude holds the key to the treasure box here. A positive attitude can make ageing a tremendous journey. Ageing is not merely a number. Not everybody retires at the age of 60. It is where the journey begins from and not the destination. It is by growing old that one learns to stay young and active. As long as one continues to be amused, one can delay growing old. Life is too short to know and see everything so explore the unexplored. Widen the horizons of your knowledge. Love more, know more and be the best of whatever you can.  Charlie Chaplin once said, “We all are amateurs; we don’t live long enough to become anything else.”  60 is too tiny a number to let go your crazy adventurous spirit and fulfill your long standing dreams.  No person is old enough to make new friends and enjoy with them.

For the elderly to age gracefully and fearlessly the entire responsibility doesn’t lie on the aged only. As a society we all are collectively responsible to provide a blissful and respectful life to these people of wisdom. We should let them age gracefully!! Warmth, affection, company and an ear to listen to are the missing links here. Time is the least they ask for. The most precious gift we can offer them is our presence. A warm hug every now and then reminds them that they are loved. Touching deeply is an important practice. We touch not only physically but with our mindfulness and our little affectionate gestures. A secret ice cream treat, a light hearted gossip session, a crazy day out doing the forbidden and dancing on their choice of song are all little things you can do to lend them a smile on their wrinkled faces. 

No doubt the children have an important role to play here but to hold them responsible for everything would not be fair and just. Wise is he who fits in every given system. After all, change is the only permanent thing in the world.  By developing a positive attitude one learns to be more receptive of changes around. The ageing generation needs to appreciate the fact that the lesser you expect, the lesser opportunity you give others to disappoint you. They should acknowledge the little acts of affection and concern done by the children. By doing so they learn to appreciate than to criticize and hence prevent themselves from being embedded in the shackles of disappointment. Someone who has to his credit a whooping number of years to his life needs not to be a burden on anyone. Live life on your own and offer least interference to the lives of the young. Advice only when asked for and love unconditionally all the time.  

Constructive and healthy social groups have much to offer to these people. Some states have introduced noble policies designed to protect the aged from various crimes committed against them. They should not be looked upon as the vulnerable groups. Hands that held us at our weakest and taught us how to walk, today look upto us with hopeful eyes. Let the chain of giving continue and held these wrinkled hands and take them across the dark tunnel to show them light. Family, society and law should be the core support systems catering to their needs.  Mere appeasement policies are not what they await. Hence, on the social front every possible effort should be made to lend them an extra mile of happiness. After all, the Index of Culture lies in the way its society looks after the senior citizens.

P.S. – Have the child like excitement on unraveling the threads of joy. Feel younger with every growing year. The good side of this, as old as one might be, is that one is always younger than he ever will be.