Thursday, January 4, 2007

Are You Frightened As I Am?

Growing old is not for sissies. In our 20s and 30s, we are frantic for love and success, expecting to live happily forever after. In our 40s and 50s, we’re at our peak earning years and deeply involved in parenting. As we approach our 60s, we are reaching retirement and empty nesting, we look into the mirror and are shocked to see an aging stranger. Is this all there is? What happened to that beautiful, hopeful person with those great expectations?

You may be as frightened as I, wondering where we go from here. After all, we may have another third of our life to live! In ancient Rome, we would have been dead by age 18. In Victorian times, we may have lived to our 40s. In America’s last century, our 60s. But now, with modern sanitation and medicine, we can expect to live to our 80s and 90s. Science is presently teasing us with the promise of an even longer life!. But at what price, with what quality of life?

With age comes the natural slowing of the body and mind, as well as a higher incidence of cancer, the curse of Alzheimer’s, painful arthritis, and many illnesses most of our forefathers and mothers were spared because they died too soon. However, there are ways we can slow the aging process, reduce the possibility of illness, and increase our feelings of self-worth, re-engagement with the world, a recharging of our personal power.

Fortunately, along with the many real problems of aging may come greater wisdom as well. Growing old can become a gratifying, graceful third act, an opportunity for each of us to star in our own enriched life drama. Before the curtain comes down, we can leave our audience of friends and family comforted, enlightened, and perhaps hopeful about their own final time on the stage. Our fear can be transformed into the tingle of excitement all actors feel before they step out into the light.

1 comment:

Lasting Legacies said...

Paradoxically, any "fright" I had about growing old disappeared with when I received a health diagnosis nearly 10 years ago (that said I'd be long dead by now!).

In addition, the experiences I've had as a hospice volunteer awakened me to the realization that "dying is safe". While I may have to deal with some pain (I know hospice nurses can relieve most all of that), the hardest part is having conversations with loved ones about death. Our culture is so death-denying that most everyone avoids those conversations like a plague (or bird flu epidemic!).

I look forward to reading about your conversations about death with your hospice patients (and others in your life).

Looks like you'd got the beginnings of a new book with your blog!