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Old dogs, new tricks: Finding purpose as we age

Dojrzały mężczyzna w czapce z daszkiem siedzi przy drzewie na skraju lasu w słoneczny dzień i spogląda z uśmiechem przed siebie

Jacob Lund | Shutterstock


Daniel Esparza - published on 05/13/24

The landscape of aging has changed dramatically. Today’s adults are a generation on the move, actively seeking meaning as they grow older.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” That old adage may have worked for our grandparents, maybe even for our parents, but it doesn’t seem to apply to today’s 40-somethings. The growing silvering (and thinning!) of our hair and the etching of time on our faces are undeniable.

We are indeed getting older. But the landscape of aging has changed dramatically. Long gone are the days of forced retirement at age 60. Today’s adults are a generation on the move, actively seeking meaning as they age.

It’s true that loneliness can linger among seniors even in cultures known for strong family ties. That’s not the whole picture, however. Compared to our parents’ generation, we’re far more active. We trade afternoon naps for jogging and quiet evenings for adventurous hikes or learning new stuff – mastering technology, reviving abandoned career paths, discovering new hobbies.

Aging and changing (jobs)

This vibrancy extends to our careers. Gone are the days of a single, lifelong job. We’re more open to exploring new callings, driven by a desire to keep learning and growing that was almost alien to previous generations.

Some may see this as a sign of instability, a reflection of a less secure world. There’s no denying that job security has become rarer and rarer. But hey, look at the silver lining. This can be a blessing in disguise. It allows us to rediscover forgotten passions, and perhaps even talents we never knew we possessed. Isn’t this spirit of exploration a cornerstone of our faith?

Consider the apostles. They were ordinary men, fishermen, tax collectors, day laborers. Even the word used in the Gospels to refer to St. Joseph was tektón – not exactly a carpenter, but more like a handyman, craftsman, or builder. In more ways than one, these biblical characters had somewhat “stable” careers. Yet when they encountered Christ, their lives were irrevocably changed. They embraced a new calling filled with challenges and uncertainties, but ultimately a journey of immense purpose.

Always growing

Scripture reminds us that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). While the world around us may change, the capacity of the human spirit to grow remains constant. Just as an old dog can surely learn new tricks, so can we learn new skills, unearth buried talents, dust off our old passions and embark on new paths carrying the torch of our faith.

As we age, let us be inspired by the dynamism of the Holy Spirit. Let us continue to learn, explore, and serve God’s purpose in our lives, regardless of the number of candles on our birthday cake. After all, isn’t that what it truly means to live a vibrant Catholic life?

Catholic LifestylePersonal GrowthSpiritual Life
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