Earlier this week I read about an interview with controversial physician, Ezekiel Emanuel, regarding an essay he’d written in 2014, “Why I Hope to Die at 75“. Doctor Emanuel stated that older Americans live too long in a diminished state, raising the question of, as he put it, “whether our consumption is worth our contribution.”
I was shocked that a physician, a healer, would have such a stereotypical attitude to anyone over the arbitrary age of 75. My great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother all lived vigorously into their late nineties, contributing to their families right up to the end. Despite naysayers like Dr. Emanuel, the elderly have much to offer in the way of experience, wisdom, courage, and compassion.
There is great pressure in our society to remain eternally young. When we don’t achieve this impossible goal, we are made to feel somehow ashamed of the evidence of our age. It is almost impossible not to buy into this foolishness, but as the elderly character Mrs. Thistlethwaite says in my Christian fiction books, “Old age is a privilege and an adventure.” Looking at aging from this perspective may help us enter old age with the gratitude and flair necessary to enjoy this rare privilege and adventure all the days God grants us.
Most of us adjust to aging with resignation. Society makes it difficult for us to embrace advancing age with any enthusiasm.
However, no matter what the media tell us, old age is not a sign of failure. It is proof of victory. The senior citizens among us are proven survivors. I like to say that anyone can be young … think about it, everyone who has ever been born has been young, but only the lucky few get to be really old. Shouldn’t they revel in that accomplishment? And be treated with respect, as well?
Old age certainly isn’t as pretty as dewy youth and it doesn’t have as much energy, excitement, or physical strength, but it does have experience, hard-earned wisdom, and, for many, a new-found release from the fears and insecurity that go hand-in-hand with youth.
Most importantly, the passage from youth to old age is part of God’s plan. It is totally natural. We can nip and tuck, inject and cover-up, gulp vitamins and exercise to the point of exhaustion, but age will out. These bodies weren’t meant to last forever. They are recyclable, biodegradable containers to carry our maturing character and spirit into the next great adventure.
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.Isaiah 46:4
Life, every life, is worthy of respect, from the womb to the last breath.