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Why we need to embrace growing older

Woman, Middle age, thinking

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Octavio Messias - published on 12/10/21

As we age, our spirits are stronger than ever with the experience and wisdom that only time brings.

I am less than three months away from turning 40, the beginning of so-called “middle age,” when—in a time when life expectancy is around 80—I may in fact be reaching the halfway point of my trajectory. I’ve not only been looking back at the past, taking stock of everything I’ve accomplished and the opportunities I’ve missed so far, but also looking into the future and, for the first time in my life, imagining what my senior years might be like. 

We’re conditioned by the media, by the superfluous values of our society, and even by the job market, to value youth—however ephemeral it may be—while the second half of this life journey is practically ignored in the popular imagination.

This week I read a report in the newspaper El País that talked about how actress Meg Ryan, once known as “America’s Sweetheart” for films like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail, hasn’t been in movies for six years because of her age. This November, she turned 60. 

She is joined by other stars from the past who’ve also been relegated to forced retirements: Melanie Griffith, 64, Debra Winger, 66, and Rosanna Arquette, 62. Their careers have been sabotaged by a form of prejudice in our society called ageism, or age discrimination. Like many issues that are being reexamined in our society, ageism is also going through a process of deconstruction and, little by little, positive actions are being taken—such as, for example, the representation of elderly models in commercials.

The privilege of growing older

As I feel closer to my old age than to my adolescence, I realize that growing old is actually a privilege. Despite increasingly frequent back and joint pain, I feel happier than ever. Today, looking back, I realize how throughout my life I’ve taken on many roles that weren’t meant for me, and how now, having learned lessons from my mistakes, I’m closer to who I really am.

As we get older, our skin loses elasticity and our bodies shows signs of fatigue, but our spirits, what we are in essence, is stronger than ever with the experience and wisdom that only time brings.

As Pope Francis said at the beginning of his pontificate, “Old age is the seat of life’s wisdom. The old have acquired the wisdom that comes from having journeyed through life.” And in 2016 on his 80th birthday, he said, “For a few days I’ve been thinking of a word, which seems ugly: old age. It scares us … But when you think of it as a stage of life which gives joy, wisdom, and hope, you begin to live again … Pray that my old age may be this way: peaceful, religious and fruitful. And also joyful.”

May this understanding of old age change our society’s view of aging and the elderly to appreciate this valuable period of our lives.

Catholic LifestyleElderly
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