I made a trip to my parents place, recently. After a long time, I got a chance to see them closely and I was surprised to notice that they are growing old much faster. Presently, my in laws are here and they are growing old too. These all old people in my family belong to age group of 60 to 65! I have very vivid memory of my grandfather, when he was in his seventies, he looked and was way ahead younger than these chaps and he made me believe that in 80s people grow old. And here are the people, who in their 60s, are shaking my belief. What happened to them? Why they grew old before time?
I can see that they have lost something and are not ready to move on. They have become bitter and cynical, wishing they were young still young and attractive, that they still had their jobs to make them feel valued and important – males as bread earners and ladies as caretakers for their kids. Their adulthood revolved around their kids and now none of the kid is dependent on them. Is this causing them the suffering? We have a culture that believes that old age comes with lots of health issues and it is scary as you become lonely and free. Loneliness is toxic, indeed. But, dear parents, you could not pursue any of your hobbies in your youth, why not invest this free time into those pursuits? And health issues- yes, your body is constantly growing old, but with healthy diet and stay active routine can save you from this to a large extent. Moreover, our medical facilities have also very well progressed to assure longevity. But still, keeping your spirits high and being happy is solely in your hands. Why you are not ready to take up this responsibility? What is stopping you from being happy? Is conformity to old concept of getting old is forcing you to behave in such fashion? It may sound harsh, but I have this one more possibility of your refusal to stay in good condition. And that possibility is: when your kids are worried for you it makes you feel respected, significant and valued, and you want to hold on to this importance. Is this why you are making yourselves miserable?
And I am thoughtful about what it takes to thrive into old age? How could my grandfather age so gracefully?
It takes me back to my memories of my grandfather. Like my parents and in laws, his kids grew and flew to other cities living him behind and he too invested his adulthood in raising his kids. But he knew the art of living in the present and letting go past and manage stress. He built his resilience and he knew that happiness could be synthesized. He never adopted a sedentary lifestyle, always active and busy with – farming, cooking, knitting, reading, playing with kids, visiting his friends and travelling. I never saw him depressed or seeking his respect and significance from his kids or any other person. He was an open minded person. He focused on his emotional independence and took responsibility of his life and he loved his life. He had a good sense of self-respect that was not derived from worldly aspects. He was optimistic and he used to smile a lot. Also, he never expected anything from his kids and only wished that they should be healthy and doing well in their lives. These all traits seem to buffer him from some of the slings and arrows of getting old.
Prior to this visit, I always remembered my grandfather as loving person and now I respect him even more and find him a rare spirit. This trip made me realize that I must motivate my elderly and not to let age hit me suddenly, without notice.
I take inspiration from my grandfather and promise myself to stay active- socially, intellectually and physically- cultivate inner happiness, find a purpose and stay positive in my old age. I am sharing this with you all in hope to make a cultural shift in the definition of ‘old’. It’s not having experiences that make us wise, it’s reflecting on the experiences that we’ve had that makes us wise. So let’s get wise and make our choice.
“Everything you have in life can be taken from you except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” – Viktor Frankl
See you again. 🙂