A local radio station brags that they are “Younger. Smarter. Better.” It’s one of many marketing messages that tells us that grown-ups are “Older. Dumber. Inferior.” Well, as a long-time teacher of 12 and 13 year olds, I can tell you that younger is not smarter and better.
Younger is cuter. Younger is more energetic. Younger is more creative. But it’s also usually uneducated, unwise, and unbalanced. It’s mostly insecure, immature, and trendy. It’s adolescence. By definition, they are not grown up yet. They have a lot to learn. We were all there once too, remember? It is an exciting time of life, but it’s not the pinnacle of life.
Nevertheless, modern America worships youthfulness. The commodities of cool are money, beauty, athleticism, sexuality, fashion, music, “ink” (tattoos), and all things young. There are entire industries built upon the idea that staying Forever 21 is the most important thing in life, no matter if you are 10 or 59.
At that age of 38, I now fully acknowledge that I am getting older. I am headed straight down the playground slide of my life, gaining momentum, and I’m not exactly looking forward to the hard landing. Now, I am not talking about real suffering here. I have a friend who was just diagnosed with liver cancer, so I am in NO WAY trying to equate my aging with other people’s deep suffering.
However, I know that I am not so young any more. According to my audiologist, I need hearing aids. According to my bank account, I can’t afford them. My metabolism is screeching to a halt. I am gaining hair in strange places, most notably in my ears, nostrils, and on my knuckles. I can run long distances slowly, but I can’t outrun my 11-year-old son in a sprint. My feet hurt and my toenails seem to think that being ingrown is fabulous.
Obviously, these are not life-threatening issues. It’s just normal aging.
So, here’s the real question, “How will I age?” Will I just cope? Will I let it get to me? Like a bitter old man who constantly complains about his aches and pains and the government? Like an aging Hollywood starlet who refuses to accept any bit of the natural aging process until she looks like Joan Rivers?
I hope not. I hope to be better, live better, and do more important things as I get older. I hope to be significantly smarter, wiser, and funnier with each decade.
We should not be ashamed of growing old. Let’s emphasize the “growing” and redefine “old” as wise, mature, smarter, better. Theodore Roosevelt, a guy who exemplified gusto throughout his life, once said, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.”
How so? Stay active. Learn new skills. Find all kinds of ways to be creative, not just critical. Take care of yourself, without being narcissistic. Travel. Get involved with our kids and grandkids and their friends. Shift into a higher gear, rather than downshifting into an easier lifestyle.
If we will determine to age well, then ultimately, with age, we will lead younger people far more effectively than if we let the culture of youth push us aside. Let’s lead in the second half of life with gusto. Let’s not let the kids get the best of us. We must be more than mere cheerleaders for our kids. We need to be actively parenting, teaching, and coaching. There should be nothing passive about it. Let’s push them to greatness by pulling them upward and onward.
All this reminds me of a scene in Rocky Balboa worth watching…