Thoughts on Aging

Is this the fountain of youth?

This is not a document on the physical aspects of aging. Those of us who are in the know could talk of the daily changes wrought by the years. Overall, what I have seen is perhaps not as bad as I had thought (yet!) but perhaps it is because when we think of ourselves, we do not really seem as old as our chronology might say. There are certainly times when I look in that mirror and freak at what I am seeing since it is not what I am feeling about myself, but that is another issue. I am really talking about what I have seen across the years in human beings as they trudge along, if they are so lucky as to be alive, toward becoming older.

One big concern I have is education. At some point in time, I realized that when you stop learning, you are pretty much setting yourself up so you are no longer willing to move forward, something I find inherently dangerous. I keep thinking of my mom who finally quit her job and retired because she “didn’t want to have to learn those damn computers!” She was right about that, she quit in time, but she set herself up on a mindset that was a downhill movement in and of itself. Dementia came not soon afterwards and since I have no medical degree or statistics, I cannot say that her attitude moved her in that direction. I know that dementia can come to anyone, but my point is, why invite it? I truly believe that when we stop learning or wanting to learn, that it is a dangerous thing. Therefore, bring on the Technology, the books, maybe even learning a new language.

One thing that has been in my craw much of my life is that some people saw me as being so organized that I am inflexible. Truth be known, perhaps I may give off that vibe, but I am surprisingly flexible despite the fact that sometimes, I just like to keep things the way they are. Change has not always been easy for me. We have to go with the flow, perhaps the music isn’t to our liking, the fashions may be wrong, perhaps the ways of dealing with kids may be different, but no matter what, we need to accept and try to move on and not be caught in some time warp, like so many are. MK’s mom found a hairstyle and a ‘fashion’ for herself in the forties and she rued the day that that era changed. She was never able to change. Being incapable of at least trying to go along with things is a real ‘nail in the coffin’ in my eyes.

Moving right along with that is open-mindedness and not being judgmental. I see so many people in the aging arena who are literally shut down with the ‘way things were’ and an inability to see the other side or the way things are going. We are quick to judge and say that that isn’t the way things were done when we were young. We bring about examples of the way it was. The fact of the matter is, in my estimate, each generation thinks that it has truly ‘invented the wheel.’ We were no different. We did things the way we thought best and if you look at the results, well, it isn’t always that great. We need to be open minded and look at what is happening, and realize that although things change and really don’t (“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”), we need to think that times are different, things change, and each generation needs to work out things as they see fit. Perhaps they are using a different way to get to the goals we set, way back when.

Being judgmental is one of my pet peeves. I am so tired of everyone making judgments of this person and that person. Let’s judge by appearance, by class, by race, by education and let’s be mean about it. That kind of attitude gets us nowhere, as we all see. I am tired of this negativity and something that is literally holding us all back. It also makes us look older, in my estimate. Being judgmental is something I often find out of control in older people.

Another thing I have seen in those who are old beyond their years is a lack of concern for others. I find that sometime, as our aches and pains overwhelm us, that we turn inwards and self-centered, even more than we may have done before. Looking out for others will often dull our pains and concerns and make them less evident to us. In my estimate, it is a win/win situation for everyone.

Lastly, we come to activity. I know that the aging process can slow us down and make us even more sedentary than we are, but activity, no matter what it is from a marathon to doing the gardening, is good for us. Obviously it has to be done within the framework of our physical and health situation but the more we do, the better it is for us all.

I don’t know what the future holds for me and we are pretty much all in the same boat. We all have the same death sentence. We can go down fighting, however, and I do believe that the things I mentioned are truly ways of slowing down physical and attitudinal changes that could be a huge negative in our lives and make our lives and those of those who surround us richer and more fulfilling.

About Richard Koerner

Sixty something, father, papi, educator, organizer, Francophile, traveler, amateur photographer, gardener, cyclist, kayaker, calligrapher, cinephile, reader, and overall renaissance type human being.
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