For several years my father, Lucien Coleman, wrote a syndicated newspaper column entitled “Things That Matter.” Since we’ll be celebrating his 82nd birthday this coming Saturday, I decided to yield my space to him this week. These are some of his observations on the phenomenon of aging:
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life,
for which the first was made.”
Those lines from Robert Browning’s “Rabbi Ben Ezra” have inspired older adults for more than 100 years. Yet, to many seniors the rabbi’s glowing words seem to be a little on the optimistic side.
On the occasion of his 80th birthday, the novelist Somerset Maugham spoke at a dinner in his honor at the Garrick Club in London.
“There are many virtues in growing old,” he began, then paused and looked down at the table. The pause grew uncomfortably long.
Maugham fumbled with his notes, and shifted uneasily from one foot to the other. The guests exchanged embarrassed glances. The famous writer cleared his throat and repeated, “There are many virtues in growing old ... I’m just trying to think what they are.”
Actually, though, Maugham was right. Old age does have its virtues. In many ways, being old is sort of a welcome change from being young.
For example, in the later years of life, as senior adulthood progresses, your accumulated wisdom entitles you to dispense unsolicited advice freely, you feel free to critique the parenting skills of your children, and you can say, “When I was your age ...” to more and more people.
In the later years your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size, chances grow smaller every year that you will die in childbirth. And you save a lot on shampoo.
At the Senior Center, I’ve noticed that the folks who live abundant, gracious lives in old age don’t spend a lot of time regretting their waning energies, their diminishing strength, their reduced mobility or limited abilities. They make the most of what they’ve got.