It seems to me there are two ways to look at getting older.
The first is that it’s nothing but a bad deal. Your eyes get worse. Various body parts start breaking down. You get tired easier. You wake up in the middle of the night. People under the age of 30 pretty much ignore you. Time starts moving faster.
I used to have a jump shot, I don’t even have a jump anymore.
On the other hand, you can look at getting older as a gift. A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to get older. You do learn a few things along the way and find out that some of the things you thought were important earlier in life really aren’t such a big deal. You have a bigger appreciation for other people and what they’ve been through.
A good friend of mine recently died after contracting COVID. He was only 69 — back when I was growing up, I thought 69 was ancient. I now look at it as still pretty young.
He had been my friend for close to 45 years and over the years we went through a lot of adventures together. I really wasn’t ready to see him go.
It would be easy to look at this as another point for the idea that getting older is a bad thing. It’s tough to watch your friends leave.
But this particular friend wouldn’t want me to think like that. He certainly had his share of trouble through the years and he could easily get depressed, but not for long. He was always ready to get back up and give life another go. I never actually asked him, but I would guess he would say getting old is more a gift than it is a curse.
The whole idea of “getting older” is a fairly modern thing. Sure, there always have been people who lived a long time but for the majority of people, living a long life was an iffy proposition. In 1860 in the United States of America, the life expectancy was around 39 years old. That’s a lot of people dying at a young age to make up for those people who managed to get old.
By 1900, it had increased to 46 years. In 1950 it was 68 years. These days, it’s somewhere around 79. I’m sure a lot of those people back who lived back in 1860 would be happy to have a few eyesight problems or teeth issues if they could live another 40 years.
So I guess what I’m saying is I’d like to think of getting older as an opportunity that everyone doesn’t get. Sure, there are problems and some days I feel like just pulling the covers up over my head and never coming out. But I’d rather get out of bed and look forward to whatever adventure the day brings. And if there’s no adventure? Well, that’s OK, too. One of the advantages of age is appreciating quiet days.
As it turns out, being older is a lot like being younger, only you have a lot more mileage on the car. Some days are good, some days are bad, and we can’t let the bad days spoil the good ones.
When my friend passed away, it definitely was a bad day, at least for me. I’m not so sure it was bad for him – he had a lot of faith and he looked at it the same way I want to look at each morning: what adventure is coming next?
In fact, when he was in the hospital he spent time texting messages out to other people to encourage them. It turns out we were feeling sorry for him but he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself.
The conclusion to all this is it has made me want to not waste any days with that “bad deal” attitude. Full speed ahead! My full speed may not be as fast as it used to be, but that’s still better than no speed at all. I don’t want to waste that gift.