Grow old gracefully! | Sunday Observer

Grow old gracefully!

2 August, 2020

Most young people are unaware of the fact that they too will join the bandwagon of old people. Napping, eating, drinking, walking and conversing are relatively non-strenuous activities of old people. Although young men and women frequently take part in strenuous activities such as boxing, bodybuilding or gymnastics, they too spend most of their leisure time napping, eating, drinking and conversing.

Although such similarities exist among the young and old, young people’s appearance change rapidly when they pass the threshold of youth. They lose much of their hair, and go bald. Most females, however, are lucky that they do not become baldies. Old people who lose their hair tend to use hairpieces to cover their bald patches, but they cannot hide their age. As you age, you skin begins to gather wrinkles and folds which may be ugly to look at. Sometimes, there can be a slight loss of height as the thickness of the disks between vertebrae in the spine decreases. On the other hand, you lose your sensory capabilities as a result of ageing. When this happens, your vision, hearing, smell and taste will become less sensitive.

Most young people behave as if they will never grow old. According to genetic preprogramming theories, human cells’ built-in time is limited to their reproduction. After a certain time, cells stop dividing or become harmful to the body. On the other hand, wear-and-tear theories suggest that the mechanical functions of the body simply work less efficiently as you age.

Natural ageing

Both these processes lead to natural ageing. However, physical ageing is not a disease, but it is only a natural biological process. In the past many gerontologists believed that old people are forgetful and confused characters. But according to new research, this is far from true. There are many old people who are not forgetful or confused.

As a general rule, older people are less healthy than young people, but there are very healthy old people. However, there  is some declining  in intellectual functioning in old age. In contrast, skills relating to the accumulation of information, skills and strategies remain steady in some old people.

In a youth-obsessed culture we tend to believe that each successive birthday after 40 is a harbinger of loss. However, today’s outlook on getting older is drastically changing. According to some experts, getting old does not mean end of the road. A youngster may want to know why this is so.

Sigmund Freud

Old men have grey hair, but that does not make them fussy. Sigmund Freud published his first great work The Interpretation of Dreams at the age of 44. Environmentalist and author Rachel Carson completed her classic at 55. Robin Marantz Henig, author of How a Woman Ages says, “Given enough time, you’ll score better and better on intelligence tests as you age.” According to him, the speed of reasoning and remembering may decrease but not the quality. Although we lose some brain cells as we age, we grow more connecting branches between brain cells and increase our knowledge. The process continues until we reach 80 or 90 provided we lead a stimulating active life.

Although young people find it difficult to cope with strong feelings, our psychological defence mechanism becomes active even in old age. More young people commit suicide than oldies when they are faced with life’s eternal problems. Mature people with many decades of experience face life with a sense of humour and altruism. Psychologist Janet K. Belsky in Here Tomorrow: Making the Most of Life after 50 says, “With age, we really do cope better with life’s upsets.”

By facing life’s ups and downs such as losing a job, going through a divorce or losing a loved one, older people become tougher than young men and women. While young people are always in a hurry to get things done, older people patiently wait for any outcome. This kind of mellowness may be due to physical changes over the years. According to psychologists, when you reach 40 the brain’s alarm system starts to shrink. As a result, old people experience a reduction in anger, anxiety, and impulsiveness.



If you walk into any workplace, the decision-makers are always old people with many years of experience. Perhaps the middle years are the most productive period for anyone. Such people are ideal as supervisors, managers and advisers. In most organisations efficient old people are encouraged to stay on without going on retirement. The management knows that they have a lot to offer to young recruits.

Even in family life, most young couples continuously quarrel with each other. Sometimes they separate or file for divorce. However, older couples, despite their quarrels want to stay together. As Henig says, “As you get older, you’re more secure in your relationship. The longer you’ve been married, the more likely it is that you are going to stay married.”

As actress Candice Bergen says, “It takes a long time to become a person. The older you get, the more unique you become.

A recent survey shows that a person becomes more compassionate in his middle or old age. When grown-up children are not living with them, they become more altruistic and civic-minded. You can see many old people serving as counsellors voluntarily. Sumithrayo is one such non-profit organization which depends heavily on old people to act as psychological counsellors.

Zest for living

When you become a grandmother or grandfather you will share your joy with children and grandchildren. When you are among them, you will feel a zest for living with a new generation. When you become old, your world does not end, but it widens. With some effort your mid-life can be a time of personal relationships.

While young people think that they have ample time to enjoy life, older people know that their time is limited. For them ,time is a precious gift which cannot be wasted on frivolous pursuits.

For some young people religion and spirituality are anathema. However, old people make their spiritual aspect of life stronger every day. All this boils down to the fact that young people should be aware of the ageing process. They should not waste their precious time in smoking, drinking, and engaging in self-destructive activities. They will eventually lose their youth and become old as life is constantly in a flux. Everything changes and you cannot step into the same river twice!