I once had the chance to attend this get-together of people in the age range of twenty-five to twenty-eight. One phrase kept on creeping in that evening. “We’re so old!”
Old? Excuse me. For me, being old meant being close to death as a result of the body slowly crumbling from the passage of time.
Last time I checked the average age in most developed countries is nearing eighty at least. I’m not even close to that age! It has come to my awareness that I shouldn’t take the statement of “we’re so old” as literal in any sense. After all, it’s just another way of reminding everyone that time is passing by, that we’re no longer teenagers with curfews. Taking life too seriously is not a new thing for me. Having the negative reminder that the prime days are slowly diminishing creeps in.
Focusing so greatly on aging is just so incredibly tiresome. Our society is so vehemently youth-obsessed, so that doesn’t help. Coincidentally, plastic surgeries are on the rise. Once someone’s posture sinks down, the voice cracks and skin loses its firmness, they are nothing more than a burdensome moving background for so many in our society. There less positive representation in the media too as old age also brings forth mourning for what once was more often. Elders are often depicted in the form of mockery. They are the unhinged ones, the ‘uncool’ ones with their real selves long gone. Only painful sickness comes and eventual death becomes ever so desired on those last days. There’s even this old saying in Poland: Starość nie radość (old age not happiness).
Well, that’s depressing.
It is no wonder then why so many people, including myself, desire to maintain that youthful appearance for as long as possible. Youth is often associated with an exciting story still waiting to be told. “You still have your whole life ahead of you,” is often said whenever I become anxious over not accomplishing certain goals. What can I look forward to anyway? Obsessing over the passage of time obviously distracts me from enjoying what is now.
Does aging have to be so vigorously negative? Although old age is not welcomed with open arms, we have to make the best of it for our loved ones. Eventually, we might also experience old age for ourselves.
Especially in the West, many families have become distanced from one another over the years. Often times there are situations where the children no longer speak with their aging parents, even for years at times. Now, there may be a plethora of reasons why that may be but there is no doubt that old age is often not associated with respect or wisdom like it once was. The stereotype of placing older parents into retirement home as a way of dealing with them comes from somewhere.
However, the wise old master trope will not disappear any time soon. In 1984’s famous classic The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi introduced as a bitter old loner who eventually drops his stiff demeanor to mentor a bullied teenager, Daniel. Towards the end of the movie the youth and elder befriend one another as they overcome personal struggles. Most importantly, they learn from one another despite the fact that they have little in common on the surface level. The elders in our society are not automatically considered burdensome.
This ageless tale is the reminder to express judgment, but it can be easier said than done. Old age may change our loved ones’ personalities drastically later on. Just starting a conversation may become a challenge as their optimism and rationality may have slowly or suddenly withered away. Perhaps they can become unmistakably cruel or aggressive? At times it can be challenging to not blame the individual rather than the illness that is causing such deterioration.
At the end the value of someone’s soul is not dictated by physical competency. Even throughout the weariness that an aging body brings forth many elders’ eyes still vividly glimmer. Sometimes I see much more conviction in their eyes than those who are decades younger. Perhaps old age itself can be a curse as it brings forth much pain and anxiety. The extent of one’s pain cannot be explained or accepted at times. At the end, our souls and our stories remain ageless.
Some days I still personally struggle with seeing the point of old age, especially when I see so much pain during those last months.
There is only one thing we can do… We have to make the best of what we have till the end of our days.