Author’s Intent, Aging

As a kid, I used to consider adults who were younger than I am now ancient. People were a lot more formal then, wearing suits and ties to work and social events and many of the adults I knew were parents which conveys an additional degree of authority. There have also been many advances in health and wellness, not to mention a youth culture which encourages people to appear as young as they can for as long as possible.

I am now older than my two grandparents who died before I even existed. When I hit age fifty, I breathed a sigh of relief because my maternal grandfather died at age forty-nine, twelve years and nine months before I was born. My paternal grandmother died at fifty-seven probably around the time my parents were first aware that I was on the way. I have memories of my paternal grandfather, who lived with our family when I was a child and I was close to my maternal grandmother, particularly as a child and into my teens. Of all my grandparents, she’s the one for whom I have the fondest memories.

I tend to use the ages at which my forebears died to guess at how long I might be around. It’s not an exact science, and the evidence paints an inconsistent picture. There are quite a few land mines in my family’s medical history, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and high blood pressure, to name a few. Men in my father’s family usually don’t make it very far into their sixties, though my paternal grandfather died at eighty-three and his mother and siblings lived into their nineties. Plus, I’m convinced that depression runs in my family, though neither of my parents were ever diagnosed with it. It certainly explains some of my father’s behavior over the years, especially toward the end of his life. His age at death, just nine days shy of his sixty-second birthday, is my next milestone age to overcome.

I’m fortunate to be one of those people who seems much younger than I am. People often guess my age to be as much as ten or fifteen years less than it is. It’s advantageous in the job market to convey a more youthful demeanor, though I often get denied jobs for being “overqualified” due to my work history. I’ve stopped putting my high school and college graduation dates on my résumé and only provide my date of birth on employment papers during onboarding. Some employers still ask for both even though they’re not supposed to make decisions based on an applicant’s age. We all know the reality.

Aging carries with it a number of changes, some more welcome than others. Hip and back problems are more prevalent. Unlike my younger brothers, I haven’t required a hip replacement yet. Walking a lot probably helps me avoid it, since that strengthens the muscles that support the hips. Since 2018, when I finally got serious about losing weight and keeping it off, I’ve managed to increase both the distance I walk and the speed at which I walk. My endurance has skyrocketed and the time I spend walking also gives me time to clear my mind and get in touch with my thoughts. It’s also more effective in lowering my blood pressure than the drugs I take for that. My resting heart rate has dropped as well.

Of course, the main advantage is experience. When one exceeds the fifty-ninth year, there’s little one hasn’t been exposed to and very few excuses one hasn’t heard. I now realize why older people are more prone to expressing their opinions than younger individuals. We’ve seen it all and heard it all and know there are usually few consequences for speaking up. I have yet to yell at kids in my yard, but the possibility definitely exists.

The takeaway is that age is often a number and how one feels is the true measure of advanced age. There are days I feel like I’m two thousand years old and others where I don’t feel a day over thirty. The irony is that one’s maturity level is not tied to one’s age, and I can attest to the fact that I often don’t feel like an older individual. One lesson learned has been to not volunteer information and that most folks should be on a “need to know” basis with few needing to know. Call it the wisdom that comes with age and experience.

Leave a Reply