Reflections on Getting Older

You are likely familiar with the verse written by Robert Browning:

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.

When I first heard this verse, albeit at a much younger age, my thoughts were something like, “bunk, hogwash, senseless prattle, horse feathers!!!!”

Robert Browning 1888

Robert Browning 1888

Over the years though I’ve gained greater appreciation for what Robert Browning was getting at.  In part, admittedly, this was due to my professional interests in Gerontology and Geriatrics. But this was largely book learning and short on personal experiences. Now that I’m living the aging process, I can better understand both the challenges and gifts that accompany it.

I hope in a series of blog posts to explore this topic further and relate the accepted features of aging and also the personal anecdotes. As always, I look forward to reader’s comments.

I suppose what made me think about this topic was an eightieth birthday party I attended several weeks ago. My son’s father-in-law was turning eighty. Alissa, his daughter threw him a no-presents birthday party, and instead requested everyone submit a letter describing what her Dad had meant to their lives. An astounding 88 letters arrived! These were carefully cataloged by Alissa and presented to her Dad.

Now the really good part: Roger on seeing all this and better understanding the impact his life had on others- teared up and became quite emotional (well for a Norwegian anyway). Now this is a stoic man who was a very successful businessman, a real numbers cruncher type who had played athletics at a very high level. He is a stoic Scandinavian-American not prone to public displays of emotion. But a public display of emotion he showed. Why was that?

I began thinking about this and melding my inner thoughts with what I knew about developmental psychology. While I have taught a college course on this topic, I’m really not an expert, but I wish to share my musings.

On entering “the third act” of our lives, most folks begin summing up of their accomplishments and  coming to grips with areas in which they were less successful. This phase of life often includes the deepening of relationships, dousing the inner fires, reducing the drive for accomplishments, and the sharing wisdom with others. This is a phase when mentoring of younger people often takes place along with the passing on of meaningful experiences to others .

The testimonials offered about Roger impacted his personal developmental journey, as it did mine. The birthday party affirmed his life’s worth and informed him of long forgotten kindnesses and other positive impacts on others. This timely theme for the party blended perfectly with the very developmental process he was undergoing. What a stroke of genius by Alissa for organizing the event in this way.

If we are fortunate, we all will age to a ripe and healthy old age.

Health and vibrant aging can be such a gift

Health and vibrant aging can be such a gift

The more of life I experience, the greater I recognize that Robert Browning’s wisdom, “the best is yet to be.” Let’s hope so.

 

To Be Continued

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One thought on “Reflections on Getting Older

  1. J.H. "Dutch" Bouwman December 4, 2016 at 8:09 am Reply

    My father was a immigrant farmer who arrived in this country from Holland at the age of 24 with only a 6th grade education and $3.00. I remember him most as, strong, affectionate, warm hearted, “un-humanly” even tempered and tolerant. He was known throughout our community for those qualities as well as the stogie that hung from the corner of his mouth, his open bible and a deep, intense faith that sustained him in spite of the tragedies that infused his life. While he was young his father committed suicide, he lost his first wife in childbirth, that son at age 1 1/2 years, his oldest son at age 22, and he lost a wonderful relationship with my mother to her dementia in the latter years of their life. Throughout it all his was a grace filled life that he showered on us all. Those qualities made him an unqualified hero to each of his children. As I now reach the 70s, the age he was when I understood best his grace and understanding, I recognize more fully the extreme value of those qualities. During old age, as throughout life, no quality is to be practiced more keenly than grace. This I learned from that dear old man.

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