Thursday, August 10, 2023

Advice on growing old


All photos courtesy of Unsplash

Some years ago, as my uncle got slowly and painfully out of the car, he advised me with the words, “Don’t grow old.”  It was not really advice, simply a reminder that old age, with its growing weakness, infirmities, aches and pains, is not for the faint-hearted, and we have no choice about growing old if we live long enough!  

For many younger people, the old seem passed it and are unfit to contribute positively to society.  They are retired and have nothing to offer except memories that all too often seem outdated and lack a contemporary feel.  They may not have kept up with technology and constantly talk about the good old days. Yet writer Len Deighton wrote, “The first 80 years are tough. Life gets better after that!”

Robert Browning, one of the great poets in the English language, wrote, “Grow old along the way with me. The best is yet to be. The last of life, for which the first was made.”  His words inspire a sense of hopefulness even for the old and retired.  It is said that the final years can be the best.  It is at that time in life that achievements can be done, which were put off earlier by the responsibility of providing for a family and increasing responsibility in developing a career.  

One man in retirement managed to design such structures as the Connecticut and New Jersey turnpikes, the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, Dulles Airport, and some bridges.  Some retirement!  Heinrich Schliemann retired from business and went looking for Homer’s legendary city of Troy. He found it!

Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Britain for the first time at the age of sixty-five. He led Britain triumphantly through the traumas of the Second World War and then won the Nobel Prize for Literature at the age of seventy-nine.  The great American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes was once asked why he had studied Greek at the age of ninety-four.  He replied, “Well, my good sir, it’s now or never!”

In the Bible, we read that Moses did his best work when past the age of eighty as he led the people of Israel out of Egypt and to the Promised Land.  Caleb claimed his mountain from the giant occupiers when he was aged eighty-five, and Anna was the same age when she prayed and eventually saw the promised Messiah in the Temple. 

At every stage of life, there is something we can do and contribute in a positive way.  We may not have the same energy we once had, but we can reclaim childhood curiosity and youth's dreams.  As long as there is breath in our body, there is still something we can put our minds to and channel our energy into a useful and profitable enterprise.  As Max Lucado writes, “Just because you’re near the top of the hill doesn’t mean you’ve passed your peak.”

As we grow older, we should also be contemplating our final and eternal destination.  The day will come when all opportunities to serve God and others on earth will be over and so it is important that we do not waste time.  When Michelangelo died, a piece of paper was found in his studio with the following words: "Draw, Antonio, draw, and do not waste time.”  He felt an urgency as time slips by so quickly and days pass in the blink of an eye, and before long, our time has come to say ‘Goodbye’.

For those who know Christ as Saviour, the words of a well-known writer are so true, “…anticipating the destination.  I hope you are.  And I hope you’ll be ready when you get home.  For you, age is no enemy.  Age is a mile-marker - a gentle reminder that home has never been so near.”  For the Christian growing old, it just reminds us that our Heavenly Home awaits and is nearer than ever before.   


Written by PAUL YOUNG 


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