Libby Grandy

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Articles on Aging

Ashamed of Growing Old?

(Published: Fresh Ink 2007)


It isn’t the reality of old age that concerns me—it is the perception.  Why are we ashamed to grow old?  Is it because today’s society seems to worship youth and beauty, no matter how superficial?  Why do we suffer from the unnecessary guilt of no longer appearing physically perfect?  (Not that we ever achieved that impossible goal in our younger years.)


People over forty often hide their age or apologize for the fact that they are no longer young, as if they had a choice in the matter.  Somehow, in our culture, we have forgotten the fact that we are born, grow old and die.  This is true regardless of our social standing, career success and financial situation.


It may be that our view of growing old is more about self-perception.  Those with low self-esteem too often create an outer image of beauty and perfection to compensate.  As they grow older and that superficial image begins to fade, old age becomes something to dread.


Of course, there are those whose careers depend on how they look, which is rather sad as it eventually becomes a losing battle.  Even if people can afford to fix whatever is fixable, there comes a time when they may look a little scary.  Those who choose to age gracefully often continue to be successful, however, because of talent and personality.


In my family, those who had retired from the stress and strain of a lifetime of hard work were admired.  I never thought of my relatives as old and most of them lived into their nineties.  I remember feeling surprised when one of my favorite uncles was referred to in the local paper as an elderly gentleman.  He was seventy-five years old at the time, and none of us had ever thought of him as elderly.


My friends and relatives in Virginia taught me that age is not a number but a state of mind.  They enjoyed their lives right up to their last day on earth.  One aunt, blind and in her nineties, radiated joy whenever I was with her.  Another dear friend never mentioned her age or health and carried on a fascinating conversation with me several months before she died at eighty-nine years of age. 


Declining health is a concern, but the natural process of aging should be seen simply as a part of the life cycle and treated accordingly.  Rising above physical problems is one of life’s challenges and something to be proud of.


The last twenty or thirty years on this earth can be rewarding.  No one that I know would trade places with the young.  We cherish our hard-earned wisdom and peace of mind.  We think about the past with affection and sometimes longing but then return to the present and live in the moment.   


Since there’s not that much we can do about our appearance, we just relax and enjoy social events.  If some people don’t like us, it’s not the end of the world, because hopefully, we’ve come to like ourselves and have friends and family who love us.  Growing old can be wonderfully freeing.


Another surprising phenomenon is that most of us feel younger emotionally than we did years ago.  I once published an article in Mature Living entitled, “Who is that Old Woman in the Mirror?”  The cliché that the mirror doesn’t lie is not true.  Some days I feel like a young girl, unsure of the future but curious, as though life is coming full circle.  In the meantime, I will not apologize for being “old.”   I have always tried to live an honorable life.


Surely, that is nothing to be ashamed about.