Jan 042018 5 Responses

Age Is Much More Than a Number

As a 10-year-old, I remember our family car pulling out of my grandparent’s driveway. My dad was driving and I was in the backseat. “If I ever become that way…” my dad said. I don’t remember what he said after that. “Shoot me” or “put me in a home” are the two most likely options, but I can’t remember which he chose. Both make the point. His frustration was with my grandmother. In her later years, she became negative, irritable, and afraid. My dad was patient, but her negativity would irritate him and make him afraid he might become like her.

Thirty years later, I haven’t thought about shooting my father or putting him in a home. I’ll let my sister make those choices. But I can tell him some bad news: his great fear of becoming like my grandmother will come true…if he’s lucky.

When a child has a birthday, I often ask, “What’s one thing a __ year-old can do that a __ year-old can’t?” A 9-year-old might mention a later bedtime. A 17-year-old brags about more freedom. We are keenly aware that as children age, they change. Their bodies and brains mature, empowering them to do more things, have more responsibility, and experience more freedom.

What we fail to remember is  that changing brains is not something that only happens to children. We realize our bodies continue to change–failing eyesight and new wrinkles continually remind us that our bodies are aging. But we forget that our brains continue to change as well. While much of my grandmother’s experience in the later years were a result of her choices, some of it was an uncontrollable aspect of aging. Less sleep, physical ailments, and a lessened control over life can lead to more negativity and fear. My 40-year-old father probably thought everything his mother was experiencing was a consequence of her choices. My 70-year-old father probably has a different insight. He can make different choices than she made and have different outcomes, but he can’t avoid some basic changes in chemistry and brain function. What made no sense to him at 40 might make complete sense to him at 75.

Age matters. While our choices play a great influence on our lives, age is not just a number. It matters. That’s why my insurance rates go up as I age…my number symbolizes the state of my body. A doctor friend of mine reminds me, “70 is the new 60. 50 is the new 40. But 80 is 80.” His point is that our bodies still have limits. No matter how much advancement we make, we cannot outsmart age and ultimately death. When we fail to recognize our age, we live in denial of the truth. We only have so many days. Each of those days is precious. Every day is a little different from yesterday and should be approached with the right mindset.

4 Responses to Your Age

Act Your Age. Right and wrong are often determined by age. A 25-year-old may not have lived long enough to understand how a joke is hurtful, but a 45-year-old should know better. It’s perfectly normal for a 10-year-old to spend all afternoon playing video-games. That activity should be far more rare for a married, middle-aged father of three. Certain activities are right in one season and wrong in another. We truly should act our age.

Embrace Your Age. Every stage has its own unique perks; enjoy them. Now that my kids are in upper-elementary school I often appreciate the fact they sleep through the night. It took over a decade, but now it is rare for Jenny and me to be woken at night by a sleepless child. Our age has some drawbacks, but there are many good things. When we embrace the good aspects, it helps us endure the bad.

Mourn Your Age. Just as there are positive elements of each age, every stage also has drawbacks. Ignoring them doesn’t make them easier. Instead, we should name the negative aspects of each age and mourn that part of life. Entering into the thrilling season of a committed relationship comes with the drawback of leaving behind the freedom of single living. You can enjoy one while mourning the other. Retirement is a great gift, but not every aspect of it is fun. Recognize and admit the bad; it will help you embrace the good.

Use Your Age. Every age is designed for a purpose. While there are things we are to learn and skills we are to develop, every season of life also presents opportunities for us to contribute to society. We should use those chances. Youth may not bring experience, but they can breathe passion and energy into a community. A more mature person may not have the energy they once had, but they can bring encouragement and wisdom from past experiences. Every age matters and we should use our age to assist others.

They say age is just a number. In many ways they are right. Our choices, attitudes, and actions greatly influence our lives. Two 40-year-olds can have drastically different experiences with one looking, feeling, and acting in a vigorous way and the other struggling and suffering because of choices they have made. Yet age is more than just a number. No matter how we think and what we do, our bodies, brains, and emotions change with each passing day.

Age is part of being human. A year to us means something different than a year to a dog or other animal. A fly has a day, a turtle might have over 100 years, but men and women generally only get 80 or so years. Each of those is different and should be approached with respect to their unique characteristics.

5 Responses to Age Is Much More Than a Number

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