How to grow old gracefully

By Henrylito D. Tacio


“Age is an issue of mind over matter,” wrote American humorist Mark Twain.  “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”


But to women, age does matter.  While shopping, a little girl asked her mother, “How old are you?”  The mother replied, “My dear, women don’t talk about their age, you’ll learn later on in life.”


Hollywood film actress Lillian Gish complained, “You know, when I first went into the movies Lionel Barrymore played my grandfather.  Later he played my father and finally he played my husband.  If he had lived I’m sure I would have played his mother.  That’s the way it is in Hollywood.  The men get younger and the women get older.”


“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically,” said Anais Nin. “We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”


“I want to be young forever,” a friend told me recently.  There’s a secret formula of staying forever, I told him.  “Really,” he inquired. “What’s that?”  Follow the footsteps of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.  They die younger and both were forever young in the minds of people. 


“There is only one cure for gray hair,” commented P.G. Wodehouse.  “It was invented by a Frenchman.  It is called the guillotine.”


If you live longer, you cannot escape old age.  So, you better prepare for it.  Here are some great truths about growing old:  Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.  Forget the health food; you need all the preservatives you can get.  When you fall down, you wonder what else you can do while you’re down there.


You’re getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster.  It’s frustrating when you know all the answers but nobody bothers to ask you the questions.  Time may be a great healer, but it’s a lousy beautician.  Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.


More often than not, people hate talking about old age.  In fact, some of them fear it.  Philosopher Cicero gave some thoughts: “As I give thought to the matter, I find four causes for the apparent misery of old age: first, it withdraws us from active accomplishments; second, it renders the body less powerful; third, it deprives us of almost all forms of enjoyment; fourth, it stands not far from death.”


Old age should not be considered a liability but rather an asset.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery hailed, “A man’s age is something impressive, it sums up his life:  maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves.  A man’s age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.”


“Grow old with me!” urged Robert Browning.  “The best is yet to be.” Yes, even if you are old already, you can still “stay young,” according to George Carlin.   The late irreverent comedian, who died at the age of 71, listed ten ways:


1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay “them.”


2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.


3 Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle.    “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” someone once said.  And the devil’s name is Alzheimer’s disease.


4. Enjoy the simple things. 


5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.


6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on.   Be ALIVE while you are alive.


7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it’s family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.


8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.


9. Don’t take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country, but NOT to where the guilt is.


10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.


Stephen Ruppenthal reminds, “No matter what your age, you can stay creative and change the lives of people for the better. The longer you live, the more people will benefit from your life – and your happiness will grow exponentially.”


“And in the end,” American president Abraham Lincoln said, “it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”


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