Henri says: “When we are able to cast off our fears and come close to the many who have grown old, we see old men and women telling stories to children with eyes full of wonder and amazement.” He mentions Pope John and Mother Teresa, Rembrandt, Schweitzer, Einstein and Michelangelo as examples of ageless accomplishment and growth. According to Aldous Huxley writing to his brother, aging can be the way to the light. “It is hard to feel old…We both, I think, belong to the fortunate minority of human beings, who retain the mental openness and elasticity of youth, while being able to enjoy the fruits of an already long experience.” Henri maps the way to age to the light. Do you want to know what they are? Stay tuned.
If you have been a hardy soul, you have endured the previous blogs that scientifically document the potential to fall prey to the dark side of aging but take heart, there is an alternative. Henri reminds us of Moses instructing his followers to: “Ask…of your elders, let them enlighten you.” (Dr. 32:17). Henri states that those that can enlighten us are here today. “Do you see them in our midst? They are there, but statistics, surveys and questionnaires seldom reveal them to us. The darkness of old age has been pretty well documented, but the light does not seem to fit into the computers and tabulation machines of the profit-makers,” states Nouwen. Concerned people have now taken on the studies to dispel some of the myths of aging and close the gap separating the generations from each other. Psychologist Bernice Neugarten writes: “So long as we believe that old people are poor, isolated, sick and unhappy (or, to the contrary, powerful, rigid and reactionary), we find the prospect of old age particularly unattractive. We can then separate ourselves comfortably from older persons and relegate them to inferior status”. Do you agree with these theories? Do they resonate with you? Do you sterotype people by age? Let us know what you think.
According to Nouwen, as debilitating as segregation and desolation are in creating “severe alienation in the elderly…the most destructive, is self-rejection. This is the inner ostracism by which the elderly not only feel they are no longer welcome in the society of profit, or able to keep their small circle of intimate friends together, but by which they also feel stripped of their own feeling of self-worth and longer at home in their most inner life”. This seems the most destructive to me since this last insult is self directed. That makes this conversation all the more relevant to each generation, since if not recognized by each individual no matter their age, it has the potential to infiltrate their thinking. Nouwen says the signs are easily recognized in individuals whose identity is absorbed by the past and have little satisfaction in the present. Nouwen states, “there can hardly be a more alienating feeling than that which believes, ‘I am who I was’.” The late great Robert Butler who coined the definition of ageism observed that, “this preoccupation with the past imprisons old people in anxiety, guilt, despair and depression” Butler further postulates that they, “become victims of a society which identifies their humanity with their productivity, and prisoners of others who made them believe that their self-worth was determined by their friends. Both Nouwen and Butler recognize this potential for every individual who ages.
WAKE UP PEOPLE, THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU WITHOUT CHOOSING SOMETHING DIFFERENT! Education and self-awareness are the way out. Nouwen states that in this place where people lose their self worth: “When people have lost their own ‘self” they are without hope… this darkness can be filled with resentment, anger, jealousy and sometimes violent rage.” I put out a challenge…reach out to an individual you know in this state and affirm their value. This will benefit you in return to identify your own potential to fall into a black pit. Let me know if you have reached out. Were you successful? TO BE CONTINUED!
This space is dedicated to sharing the Good News with one another as we journey Home.