Being old is like that…

Dennis

“If you continue to work and to absorb the beauty of the world around you, you will find that age does not necessarily mean getting old…. The man who works and is never bored is never old. Work and interest in worthwhile things are the best remedy for age…. —Pablo Casals

A few years ago I was teaching a leadership course in an Asian country to educators with administrative responsibilities.

At the end of our 3-day program two 20-something year-old participants approached me to ask if they could have their picture taken with me.

“We want to show this photo to our students to demonstrate to them that old people can still be useful,” they explained.

I had two immediate thoughts:

“Old person!”

Followed quickly by: I thought this was a part of the world where older people were revered.

Here’s a question: What if you woke up one day to discover that you were old?

Being “old” is sort of like that. You are young and then you’re not. Middle-age seems to be something that occurred between college and this moment and of which you have only a vague recollection.

To some degree that feeling exists throughout life, but it certainly is more pronounced as the decades pile upon one another.

But years aren’t exact equivalents of age, as Pablo Casals reminds us,

So, if on occasion, you fear growing old, which is a common and understandable fear, I encourage you to find work in its broadest sense that interests you and engages both your mind and your heart and to do such work for a lifetime.

8 Responses to “Being old is like that…”


  1. 1 Tracy Crow September 28, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I’ve been thinking about this lately — how to leverage the wisdom we gain each year to engage more deeply (or even for the first time) in the things we care most about, and disengage from those that don’t offer as much fulfillment. Thank you, Dennis.

  2. 3 Monique Beels September 28, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    What a powerful message for me. Reevaluating my life and my work is a priority for me now, it wasn’t much in the past. I love being older, being a better thinker, being a better grandmother, being a better creator and facilitator. My best is yet to come. Thank you Dennis.

  3. 5 Lenore Cohen September 28, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    I literally laughed out loud! I think about growing older every day. But never when I’m mentoring beginning teachers or caring for my “almost” three year old grandson.
    Thanks for sharing that story. The image is vivid!

  4. 7 Kent Peterson October 1, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    This was a powerful comment. One that asks all of us who are reaching the later stages of our lives what we should be thinking about. Rev. Ron Rolheiser talks about “Giving our Death Away,” which encouraged me to think about what I am doing towards the end of my life. Rather than looking back and bemoaning the things I did not do, buy, or experience, looking forward incrementally at each thing we can give to others and thus to ourselves. We don’t know when the old body will run into a non-correctable (or replaceable) problem. We need to consider each day and moment a gift; one that we can give away to others as a way of giving to ourselves as well. Thanks for the thoughtfulness, Dennis.

    • 8 Dennis Sparks October 1, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      I really appreciate this idea, Kent: “Rather than looking back and bemoaning the things I did not do, buy, or experience, looking forward incrementally at each thing we can give to others and thus to ourselves.” Thanks for commenting!


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