Can we continue to live with purpose and joy regardless of age or life circumstances? This kind of living is not about how active we are but rather how fulfilled we are.
In our youth-oriented society, most of us have grown up with a deep-seated fear and loathing of old age. Growing older generally means uselessness, helplessness, wrinkled skin, and chronic illnesses. To counter this perspective, we desperately swallow our fears and pretend that 70 is the new 50, grateful when someone “compliments” us saying “you look great for your age.:” This is the societal unspoken goal in life—to look young for as long as possible.
But the reality is that as long as we are alive, we are constantly aging.
When we are caught in wanting to maintain our youthfulness, we miss the present moment. We miss the natural cycle of life—birth-growth-death. Instead, we work hard to maintain the past and by doing so, guard ourselves from seeing the real live issues and challenges that we face in the last third of our lives.
Furthermore, because we experience this societal prejudice against aging, we often don’t see the amazing gifts we have actually developed throughout our lives. More importantly, we don’t see how we can use these life experiences to give meaning and purpose to these later years.
“How can we move from elderly to elders?” How can we tap into this time to age with purpose and awareness instead of living paralyzed by deep seated fears?
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi