Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Old age is not a disease

I had a birthday a couple of years ago. They come every year, for me as for most people, but this was the one that marked me definitively as being an old man. I told my family and friends that I did not want anyone telling me that I was 70 years young. I was 70 years old and I had the memories to prove it. Now I am even older.

It makes no sense to me either when people tell me “You’re only as old as you feel.” If that be true, there was a point this evening when I was 95. A nap fixed that. That is a little anti-aging trick known to most of us old people.

Why do we insist on treating old age as a disease? There must be just as much money spent on treating and masking the symptoms of old age as is spent on treating some major diseases. There was a time when the hoary head and the weather beaten face were badges of honour, not something fearful that needed to be disguised so as not to frighten the younger generation.

Ah but, you may say, old age is a terminal condition. To which I will reply that simply being alive is a guarantee that you will die. We need to come to terms with that reality before we can truly live life to the fullest.

Right there is the problem with our attitude towards old age. We live our working lives with the goal always before us that one day we will come to the end of this drudgery and be free to truly enjoy life. When we do retire, we find ourselves face to face with the awful truth that we have been deliberately avoiding all those years – retirement means that we are now useless.

True enjoyment comes from doing things that are useful. If our retirement dream was based on the cessation of all useful work so that we can take our leisure, the reality will be a crushing disappointment. Most retirees don’t like to talk about it, but that feeling of uselessness eats away at them. Suicide is as big a problem among retirees as it is among youth.

The problems faced by older people are just one symptom of the missing factor in the lives of most people in our era — we have forgotten that service to others is what gives meaning to life. We consider our working lives to be drudgery because we have forgotten that the real purpose of our job, any job, is to serve others. The real purpose of our lives away from work is to serve others — families, neighbours, our church community, anyone who is in some way in need.

Service to others — one never grows too old, too feeble or too handicapped for that. There is something that we can do at every stage of life. Facing life with this in mind will lift our spirits, clear our minds and give us a reason for getting up in the morning.

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