Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Aging Artfully

"The best part of the art of living is to know how to age gracefully."
                                                                                                                              ~ Eric Hoffer

It's been quite a trip down memory lane - reading the 20 year old journal that I recently uncovered.  Photos, essays, lists, images from catalogs and magazines.  Hopes, dreams and wishes for a future that is today.

Among it all a clipping about the veteran character actor, Jack Palance, who had just won his first and only Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, at the age of 72.  And stunned the audience by dropping down and doing a series of one-armed push-ups.  I kept the article because I didn't want to lose the reported comments he made before the Senate Special Committee on Aging - the subject "aging artfully."  Comments that struck me as wise and worth remembering.

Words that strike me today (now that I am 72!) as inspirational and worth sharing.

"Unfortunately, too many of us seek solace and consolation as a reward for getting old.  Since it happens to everyone, aging shouldn't come as a shock, and it shouldn't come as a surprise.  It's a perfectly natural sequence of life, a fulfilling completion of what was designed for us in the beginning... 

"And it has nothing to do with 'getting old.'...Don't get old, don't allow it to happen.  Don't let them think of you as old - and I mean your children, your grandchildren or those well-meaning friends who want to share their own physical decline with you.  Tell them all to go to hell!

"Look, one of the most important reasons for living is to do something - live outside of yourself and put together an idea, an idea that you want to explore and complete...Awaken your creative sensitivities."

The reporter, one Allen J. Sheinman, concluded by saying that it was doubtful that Palance left his congressional audience without a fresh perspective on the second half of life.  I'd like to think so, but if it did,  I don't see a lot of evidence that it has caught on.  Instead, anti-aging seems to be the prevalent message everywhere I turn. With an emphasis on image.  Not on health, not on purpose, not on learning or creativity.  At least not in the mass media. Even Dr. Oz uses the term.

I've been searching for some time for a better way to think about this phase of my life, a way to think about it that would support effective behavioral choices.  Anti-aging doesn't work for me, too negative.  And the more positive phrases that have been coined, like Jane Fonda's Prime Time, or the Golden Years, or even the Ninth Hole (which came to me via e-mail) haven't captured my fancy.  But "aging artfully", aging creatively - love it!!  Thank you, Jack.  And thank you, Eric.

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