What Is Old Age For?

In our misguided quest for eternal youth, many of us forget the
function and benefits of aging and the aged.
Writing in
Yes!, William Thomas reminds us
that it is worth
paying attention to the life-learned perspectives of the elderly,
who have played an important role in building and maintaining a
healthy social fabric for centuries.

Adults who are obsessed with remaining young face the risk of
perpetuating a society of ‘developmentally delayed adults’ fixated
on accomplishment and lacking any sense of stewardship. Adults are
goal-oriented and constantly doing; they are not
comfortable simply being. Elders have spent their lives
pursuing a variety of aspirations, their bodies have slowed down,
and they are content just being. A sense of stewardship comes from
the wisdom of being, not the production of doing.

‘The development of human culture — its refinement, storage,
and transmission — was woven into the fabric of old age,’ Thomas
writes. He urges us to liberate elders in our society and return
elderhood to its rightful position of respectability and utility.
The percentage of Americans over the age of 65 today is three times
that of 1900, but the elderly are routinely isolated from society
in institutions. If the African proverb equating losing an elder
with losing a library holds any grain of truth, this is the
cultural equivalent of locking up all our libraries. Not only do we
need to move beyond our society’s overt ageism, Thomas argues, we
need to learn from and value our elders, not disdain them.
Rose Miller

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What Is
Old Age For?

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