I have looked quite hard but failed to find too many ‘positive aspects of getting older’ – certainly not when I listen to others on the subject. I am excluding anyone under the age of 18 here. When I was 9, people who were 9 1/2 were gods and obviously far superior to myself. That was a fundamental law of childhood and still appears to be the case.
When I was a child, I also noticed that my six year old head WAS actually quite different from my ten year old head. In those four years I’d done all sorts of development - my outlook, my understanding, the physical angle I viewed life from were all actually quite different. It made sense to me, therefore, that my head at forty would be significantly different from my head at 25 – that it wouldn’t matter that I got older, because my head would adjust and continuously be in the right state for that age. I was mistaken! Why did the same head stay with a body that is clearly getting older?
I have read that self esteem and linguistic capability improve with age. Now they are two things worth having more of. I think, on reflection they do improve but are they a pay-off for an ageing body with diminishing eyesight/hearing etc, more and more encounters with death, a deteriorating short-term memory, bits that are increasingly more likely to go wrong, and a face that you have to continually form a new relationship with – particularly with respect to morning toilette?
What else gets better? What else gets worse? Do we get less patient? Become less open-minded? Do we start to feel too slow in a fast life? Do we become increasingly scared of 'the new'? Which of these are stereotypes and which are true trends? Who knows?
I have asked a few people directly what, ‘the best thing about growing older is’ and these are answers I have been given – when people do have an answer:
• being more confident
• being more and more comfortable in your own skin
What I did notice though was that there weren’t people gushing to tell me that it simply just gets better and better (although my old headteacher assured me the 40s and 50s were great (and he was 60 and an authority I trust!))
But then I started reading stuff……Carl Jung, Anodea Judith…… and they had a few helpful things to say...two of which follow...
Firstly we need to realise that the dominance of youth culture has really distracted everyone from the true wisdom that can be gained from those in the latter part of their lives – so much so that some middle-agers are not even appreciating their own ‘lessons from life’ and would give it all up readily for a 20 year old face. This wisdom has been so de-valued, no one appears to be listening to it (or even acknowledging it) anymore. This is surely a tragedy yes? We are all focusing so much on youth. Some people definitely live at lot in their past. We need to stand confidently and proudly in the knowledge that we have something we didn't have in our youth!
Secondly, Jung states in no uncertain terms what the latter part of our lives should be about. He says we have a definite mission. I won’t go into great detail (you'd have to read it yourself) but he states that we need to marry our conscious and our unconscious, become truly whole and then die! Off you go then. Actually very few people choose to have any awareness of this and I am not about to write an essay about it in this post. But for me, having a specific job dedicated specifically to latter life is a pleasant thing to hear – whether I choose to undertake it or not! My latter life has a specific purpose (that young people cannot have) dedicated to it! Yay! Yay! Perhaps just knowing this 'job' exists is enough.
In the meantime though, I have decided not to panic – that would be ugly.