Perspective and Aging

Definition: Perspective “a view of things (as events) in their true relationship or relative importance” (The Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Some years ago I had a conversation with a resident in a facility where I was the head of the Nursing department. She was close to her 100th birthday. I asked her what she made of her life in general. She promptly replied: “Can’t tell yet! I am still making my life!”

For many centuries in other parts of the world it was the oldest people around who were responsible for transmitting history, value, culture. Without this tradition, each generation would have had to stumble about and attempt to create its world anew. Today, despite modern media for communication across time and space, the old person’s role as communicator remains important. Old people are, in my estimation, not only valuable to the rest of us, they can also be valuable to themselves. The old person who disregards the negative attitudes of society can often experience a solidly grounded sense of value. Among our elders of today are many who have overcome significant adversities, who have raised families under very difficult circumstances, opened territories, started enterprises, contributed energy and ideas that have helped to shape the present and future. Their accomplishments are real; they deserve the respect as well as others.

But the question is: what point is there in being old that constantly hovers about us? Society often behaves as though old people have less intrinsic value than others. Many of us joke uncomfortably about “getting on in years” or try to conceal signs of our advancing age. The term “old” itself has become as much stigma as classification. The prejudice that old age is a worthless, miserable state is virtually guaranteed to poison us throughout our life span.

What value can adulthood hold, if it is bound to give way to such a valueless state? We need a more positive view of aging and old age if we are not to live beneath a shadow of fear and depression for many of our older years.

Throughout our lives we want our own respect as well as the respect of other people. We want to be useful. We want to be able to enjoy new pleasures, accept new challenges, be a part of the present and future as well as the past. We want to function up to our potential, from over-powering physical needs and from excessive anxiety and stress.

An old person does not have to look exclusively to the past. Opportunities for self-actualization and pleasure often can be found. Many people have been so busy, too weighed with practical life responsibilities to pursue special talents and interests.

The businessman may have derived more satisfaction with easel and brush than he did in closing sales; the previous housebound wife may flourish as a political organizer. In realty the older person may gradually come to appreciate the freedom from hectic schedules, the stress of competitive work, the monotony of daily routines that holds one captive to job or home.

Fortified by many years of experience and knowledge the old person may have a much better idea of how to make the most of time than was the case in his or her youth. Not all of life’s satisfactions however are restricted to the philosophical or creative. Enjoyable physical activity with its added benefit of health preservation, remains quite possible for most of us in our later years. One must try it to derive its benefits.

Quotable Quote: “Perhaps, in the end, moments to treasure are the same at any age.”

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