The late hours and the late years
Nothing prepares us for growing older. The fact is, what the late years look like for older adults in the 21st Century is a still-developing picture.
The Opposite of Young
Nothing prepares us for the late years of life. Not our years lived, certainly not popular culture and not even our own life experiences are preparation for how aging will feel to us – and how we will react to aging. To be caught unprepared is not surprising. After all, we cannot practice being older adults, so how would we gain that knowledge beforehand?
Consider this: As a child, you are engineered by nature to get better and better. With each passing day, you grow stronger, smarter, more capable and independent. Propelled by hormones, you fly through your teenage years until you finally emerge...an adult in adulthood! So there you are at last, with the peak years of your fertility, attractiveness, physical strength and cognitive function still ahead! From this dizzying height, and with childhood at your back, you survey the seemingly unending plains of adulthood and set off into your future with all its challenges and distractions.
In the years that follow your sense of yourself and your health may rise or fall a little but with luck you will plateau for many, many years. Along the way, small harbingers of aging arrive: the first gray hairs, the appearance of laugh lines, perhaps the need for reading glasses – but these are small things, noted but readily addressed and, consequently, easily dismissed. The fact is, we don’t want to think about aging and when we do, we rarely consider it at any length.
We live in a youth-obsessed society and I understand that obsession. But what does it mean to be the opposite of young? Look around you. People are living longer and the presence of older adults in our current numbers has never been seen before on our planet. The fact is, a lot of what we think we know about aging is wrong. There are many myths about older adulthood. Perhaps the biggest myth is the common wisdom, oft repeated, that adult children and parents will eventually “reverse roles”, with the child parenting the parent. This misconception is not only profoundly wrong, at its heart it is a relationship-destroying myth.
What the late years look like for older adults in the 21st Century is a still-developing picture. One thing we do know: Most of us want to fully live all the time that we have. Because time is a gift. And because, in plain terms, the opposite of young is the rest of your life.