I think we can all agree that life is one grand sweet song.  It’s no wonder we’d do anything to make it last.  But history tells us that many of us quit too soon. We disengage and engineer a premature old age.

Aging is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Walter Bortz, a gerontologist at Stanford says, “Imagine you’ll end up in a nursing home and chances are you will.  Imagine climbing Mt. Everest and that can be your destiny.”

One of the reasons we quit too soon is perhaps because we obsess about age and allow it to define us. Our youth culture, embodied by the “Baby Boomers,” who didn’t trust anyone over 30, over the years crowded out the exploration of mid-life and beyond.

Remember the 1959 hit song, “The Three Bells” by the Browns? It was the story of Little Jimmy Brown’s three stages of life – birth, marriage and death in the little valley town. Surely, Little Jimmy had something going on between marriage and death. But as Dr. Robert Butler wrote in his Pulitzer-Prize winning book in the 70s, “The Tragedy of Old Age in America,” “Aging is the neglected stepchild of the human life cycle. Those of us who are not old, barricade ourselves from discussions of old age by declaring the subject morbid, boring or in poor taste.”

Older folks, themselves, can exacerbate negative attitudes toward aging choosing resignation, even disgust and frustration – a defeatist attitude that 40-years ago, society in general adopted.

But that was then.  “Boomers” are now retiring in huge numbers – a cohort over 70 million strong – and no doubt reconsidering their distrust of anyone over the age of 30.

We are reversing the trend and facing the fact that being old is just another stage in the external aging process and being grateful for it.

When I began covering these issues of aging for CNN in the early 90s, gerontologist Ken Dychtwald told me, “In thousands of ways, we have learned to like what’s young, and dislike what’s old.”

The fact is our culture is being overwhelmed by a demographic revolution that has no precedent in history – our country is growing old. And what do you know? We are learning not to concentrate on what can go wrong with us - widowhood, retirement, disease, meaninglessness, impoverishment. “It’s high time we look at what goes right with us: the source of love, purpose, fun, sexual pleasure, spiritual companionship and sustained well being that so many people are discovering in second adulthood, much to their surprise”, as Gail Sheehy put in her book, New Passages.

Getting better with age is a hard concept for some folks.  But consider the growing number of researchers who say they’ve found no biologic reason not to live to 110.  It’s a quiet revolution, but a revolution to be sure.

I think Norman Vincent Peale said it best, “It’s always too early to quit.”

So hang on. The upshot is we’re living longer and the fact is, “The best is yet to be.”

(1) comment

John J Flanagan

Well, I suppose Mr. Waters can read the demographics his way, and interpret the results as many do, but as for me, I will go with the way the insurance companies look at demographics. It is much more realistic. To be sure, very few of us can count on reaching 110 years. The insurance companies would laugh at that idea.
The other day I was googling a friend of mine who worked with me in New York. We were both state inspectors at a regulatory agency, working the Long Island area. He was holding off on retirement. He wanted to retire with his wife, from her job, and travel the US. Well, he died suddenly at 64, three years younger than my present age. He had about two retirement years. I have been around long enough to see this scenario played out. Former employees die within 4-5 years of retirement after moving to Florida or the Carolinas to enjoy the good years. The insurance companies knew all along that many will not collect their full insurance pensions, and unless one makes stipulation for one's wife to collect the balance, the entire pension may be gone.
In today's obituary, the ages noted in the explorer are 80, 57, 68. In the Star, nobody over 90. After I retired from NYS government, I worked at a national cemetery as a representative for two years. I buried approximately 2000 military men and their wives. As a thumbnail sketch, I can tell you the true demographics were about 73-84, with a few going beyond, and a rare minority of mostly women going over 100 years old.
So, when I read an article like the one Mr Waters posted, I say to myself, "there are three kinds of lies, big lies, little lies, and statistics." Mr Waters statistics are not valid, even if he spoke to or sourced some experts. Go to the insurance companies and there you will find reality, and the real numbers..
I am a Christian man. I am at peace with getting older. I do not relate to the culture I find myself living in these days. Men want to marry men, pornography and filthy movies abound, the media and many people attack Christians and the Bible. God is openly mocked on programs like South Park and Family Guy, which I cannot stomach.
The only thing I will hold on to in my aging years, is my faith in God. With more years behind me than in front of me, I am at peace. My views are not the same as Mr Waters on aging. It is a natural thing to grow old and die, and to accept one's mortality. This is the way God intended it to be. It is not about your own pleasure or self fulfillment. It is about service to others and belief in God. After all, if the only satisfactions in life are earthly treasures, than you have lost your soul, and that would be a greater tragedy. John J Flanagan, Oro Valley, Arizona

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