“I believe it’s your birthday today? Happy birthday!” I tweeted to a friend on Twitter.
“Thanks. Though given the number I’m in two minds about being ‘happy'” he tweeted back.
This is a common reaction among most of us in the Western world who are approaching an age that we believe will have our best years behind us.
In the West we are lead to believe that the older we get the less appreciated and required by society we are. This is true to an extent. Western society values youth, beauty (if you’re female) and vitality.
We are taught that the older a person is the less they have to contribute to society. The belief is they are from a less intelligent bygone era and are too stuck in their ways to embrace the new.
In old societies, elders were revered because they had reached an old age without being killed by a tiger or a bear. They had survived harsh winters with little to eat. The years had instilled in them a wisdom and hardness of spirit that could only be obtained through decades of experience.
In modern times we don’t fear being eaten by a large animal and food is surplus so there is little chance of dying of starvation.
We have better healthcare and we are more civilised which means we are living longer than ever. There has never been a greater time to be alive.
Our ancestor’s challenge was keeping himself alive into old age. Our challenge today is keeping our spirit alive into old age.
Instead of working on their spirit and mindset most people will either accept that they are old and slowly prepare for death.
Others will try to preserve their youth by dying their hair, bleaching their teeth, getting implants, procedures, botox and so on. If you’ve seen Micky Rourke’s before and after surgery pictures you’ll see how that works out.
Here’s what you need to do.
Think of old age as a gift. A privilege. A chance.
Rather than trying to look young for your age you should aim to look good for your age.
Throughout our life we should work on our body, brain and spirit.
Keep pushing your body to grow. If you stop it will begin to rot. Lift weights, run, swim, stretch, whatever. Send those signals to the body to tell it you’re alive.
Keep educating your brain. When the brain learns something new it creates new neurons regardless of how old you are.
Keep nourishing the spirit. Work on your inner self, mindset and your own personal philosophy to life. Don’t let societal expectations load you down like a pack mule.
Instead of dreading each year getting older we should relish it.
Going bald? Shave it off.
Going grey. Embrace it.
Eyesight fading? Get glasses or contacts.
As long as I can stay of sound body and mind I want to live until I’m at least 100 years old. Ideally more.
I want to be the old man who’s seen and done it all and doesn’t care what you think but still has a spring in his step and a glint in his eye.
We tend to idolise the famous who died young like James Dean, Tupac and Amy Winehouse because their early death has given them eternal youth. Though immortalised as icons for ever any of them would trade places with your old-but-living-ass in a heartbeat.
Realise this, old age is a privilege that many people never get to experience. Their lives cut short through unlucky circumstances or personal neglect.
When I pointed this out to my friend on Twitter he, of course, saw getting older as better than the alternative. But that’s still a less negative way to look at it.
Instead we should look at getting older as an opportunity for growth to be a better person tomorrow than we are today.
There is no other way of looking at it.
“The best Armour of Old Age is a well-spent life preceding it; a Life employed in the Pursuit of useful Knowledge, in honourable Actions and the Practice of Virtue; in which he who labours to improve himself from his Youth, will in Age reap the happiest Fruits of them; not only because these never leave a Man, not even in the extremest Old Age; but because a Conscience bearing Witness that our Life was well-spent, together with the Remembrance of past good Actions, yields an unspeakable Comfort to the Soul” Marcus Tullius Cicero