Words by Hannah Schauder Art by Carla J. Romana
When we talk about the assignments we have to do and the uni parties coming up, we tend to hear from fully grown adults that these are the best years of your life. Statements like these can’t help but plant a fear of growing old, a fear that is becoming a lot more common in our generation.
We’re currently living in an ageist society where we think life after 50 is uneventful and boring. Milestones have become societal expectations. We seem to think we have failed the game of life if, by 30, we haven’t found the love of our life, popped out a couple of kids and established a successful career.
But why are we so focused on youth? Why aren’t we talking about the cool perks or benefits of aging? I personally know many people over the age of 60 leading fulfilling lives, so why do we think change and excitement have an expiry date?
What we can actually find is that aging can be rewarding and introduce opportunities we can’t access in our 20s.
The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore asserts that aging is also a process of editing. Ageing enables you to make changes you may have been limited to when you were younger. There’s no need to go the full Marie Kondo, but you become old enough to know what no longer sparks joy. Those people you don’t like that much? Don’t bother with them. Want to try that activity everyone said not to do when you were younger? Now’s the time to go for it.
These changes can even be as drastic as career shifts. Samuel L. Jackson didn’t land his first big movie until the age of 43, while Stan Lee didn’t create his first comic book until 39. On a lesser known scale, a woman named Gladys Burril had been an aircraft pilot and mountain climber but only became well-known after completing the Honolulu Marathon at the age of 92.
In a little hidden bookshop just off Flinders Street in Adelaide, you’ll find a shop so full of books. You have to squeeze in between shelves and duck under haphazard piles to navigate the shop safely. You catch a whiff of that dusty book smell as you look through books so old, you can rip a page with only a little bit of force.
Behind a mahogany desk (flooded by even more books), an elderly gentleman with white hair and stubble admires your book choices. When complimented on his collection, the man takes a moment to admire his creation before describing it as a “labour of love”.
This man sitting in the dim light of the bookshop shows how aging can give us the time to relish in our hobbies and fulfill our passions. Whether it be developing a love for hiking, cooking or dancing, time can be used to do something as simple as watching movies or travelling to the world’s best wineries.
Getting older also brings knowledge about different aspects of life, as well as the freedom of time to learn even more. From becoming an expert on the origins of fishing to learning about the development of fashion through the decades, age can bring an acquired knowledge of history and a chance to explore one’s interests.
My great grandfather, now approaching the age of 99, can still easily recall the events that took place between the Australian and Japanese armies during World War II, while discussing life for the working class in rural Perth in 1920s Western Australia.
But the wisdom you gain throughout your lifetime goes beyond understanding the everyday. From a spiritual perspective, Judaism says that with age, a person grows in knowledge and purpose.
Aging might bring less physical strength, but it also brings wisdom, a quality to be respected, admired, and honoured.
Purely Practical Benefits
Of course, we also can’t pass the practical benefits of getting older. The body may be weaker, but the immune system is definitely stronger. This means older people get fewer colds, fewer migraines, less sweat and can outlive outbreaks. Studies have even shown that those of age have better sex, due to growth in confidence and plenty of practice…
Don’t think of aging as another step closer to death but as another year of improvement and growth. And another reason for cake. Also, let’s also not forget,