Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio
After watching Hollywood actor Cary Grant (Archibald Leach in real life) on a television broadcast, his mother, then in her nineties, reprimanded him for letting his hair get so grey.
“It doesn’t bother me,” the actor replied carelessly. Rebuffed the mother: “Maybe not, but it bothers me. It makes me seem so old.”
No one can escape aging, the time when body processes and functions slow down when wrinkles line the face and the skin sag. It’s also the time when hair turns grey. “Aging is a simple fact of life – a stage we all lead to,” someone once said. “After the period of young adulthood, which seems brief to many, the aging process begins.”
Many senior citizens – as they are called these days – embrace life with surprising gusto, “but most people don’t appreciate aging the way they should,” said Dr. Felicitas Artiaga-Soriano, assistant head of the Department of Psychiatry at Veterans Memorial Medical Center. “But if we acknowledge the fact that we’re going to get older and embrace the aging process, we can enjoy our lives from 60 years of age and up.”
“I’m not interested in age,” Elizabeth Arden once said. “People who tell their age are silly. You’re only as old as you feel.” Oscar-winner George Burns, who lived more than a hundred years, said, “Age to me means nothing. I can’t get old; I’m working. I was old when I was twenty-one and out of work. As long as you’re working, you stay young. When I’m in front of an audience, all that love and vitality sweeps over me, and I forget my age.”
Bernard M. Baruch quipped, “To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.” Bill Clinton, one of America’s youngest presidents, said: “When our memories outweigh our dreams, we have grown old.” Another US president, Thomas Jefferson, thinks otherwise: “Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for my posterity.”
But just as people forget the past, the world also doesn’t pay much attention to the older folks. They are considered liabilities rather than assets. But history records some of those living in their twilight years to continue working. Rodrigo R. Duterte was 71 when he became the 16th president of the Philippines. Winston Churchill, for instance, was Britain’s prime minister when he was 81.
Clara Barton headed the International Red Cross at 83. Robert Frost wrote famous poems when he turned 80. Oliver Wendell Holmes was chief justice when he was 90. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright did his best work at 86. Indestructible John Wesley was still preaching at 88.
At 99, classical pianist Mieczylslaw Horszowski recorded a new album. Also, at 99, twin sisters Kin Narita and Gin Kanie recorded a hit CD single in Japan and starred in a television commercial. At 87, Mary Baker Eddy founded the Christian Science Monitor, while mystery writer Phyllis Whitney published her seventy-first book, The Singing Stones. At 81, leftist journalist I.F. Stone published The Trial of Socrates, which became a bestseller.
As Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany was approaching the age of 90, he got a bad cold. Even his personal physician could not help him much, and the chancellor was impatient with him.
“I am not a magician, sir,” the doctor protested. “I cannot make you young again.” Hearing this, Adenauer replied, “I haven’t asked you to make me younger. All I want is to go on getting older.”
While a lot of people abhor getting older, there are those who welcome its coming. “On the bright side of life, you will probably save a lot on shampoo when getting old and bald, and no longer have to suffer from thwarted and long gone ambitions,” said T. Kinnes.
If you ask Clint Eastwood, his answer would be: “The best part of aging in this business is losing that obsession about work and being able to spend a little more time with family.”
C.S. Lewis recalls, “When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am 50, I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things – including the fear of childishness and the desire to be grown-up.”
When Benjamin Disraeli was prime minister of England, he was out walking one day with a friend. As they were going along, they met a rather distinguished elderly gentleman.
Disraeli stopped, greeted him very courteously, and then asked, “And how is your old complaint?” The man answered that it was getting worse and he was sure that it was going to be his death of him.
As Disraeli and his friend walked on, the friend asked who the elderly acquaintance was. Disraeli said that he didn’t have the slightest idea who the man was. “But you asked about his old complaint,” the friend persisted. “How did you know about that, if you don’t even know the man?”
The British prime minister replied wisely: “I have found that almost all elderly people have some complaint, and they like to talk about it.”
“Live your life and forget your age,” Norman Vincent Peale suggests.
Words of wisdom, these!