The Beauty of Growing Old

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose” (Robert Byrne).

Depending on where you are in life old age can either be a good thing or a bad thing. It can be a bad thing if you fear growing old, have not loved those you should have loved, or have not been loved by those who should have loved you. Growing old can be dreary and dreadful if you lived a lonely life, feel unaccomplished and are unhappy with your lot in life, or if life was passing you by. It can be awful for those who merely survived instead of living life. And more than a few seem fearful of living life: they trudge along; refusing to acknowledge the beauty and wonderment of life; succumbing to challenges and finding faults in every day existence and in the existence of others.

You fear old age if you are fixated on the superficialities. As a woman, you look into the mirror and all you see are sagging breasts, miles and miles of wrinkles and stretch-marks, thinning and graying hairs, pouches of fats on your hips and midsections and around your waist. Every so often you steal a look at the mirror and you wonder. You wonder about the body you once had; and wonder too about what “nature has wrought.” As man, you look at your stomach and then wonder. You go grey and bald. Your breasts become a bit more pronounced — slightly resembling that of a small-sized woman. Your penis and your scrotum sags. Arching joints become part of your daily routine.

But more demoralizing is the fact that, unlike in yester-years, you no longer can have long and sustained erection. Every so often, you will get lucky, your penis and libido will perform wonders; but for the most part, the studhorse or the stallion in you is no more. Every now and then your memory and five senses — sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste — will fail you. For most, the first to deteriorate are the memory, the olfactory organs and auditory system. Five, six or seven decades earlier, you were independent, capable and able to do things for yourself and for others. But age forces you to be dependent on your children and grandchildren and on the support and kindness of your immediate family and the general community. Ironically, and for the most part, you become the family’s sage or matron, in spite of your physical limitations.

Truth be told, nature’s look can be demoralizing. But you need not be obsessed about your aging body. There is a time for everything; and the time has simply come for the winds and rivers and streams to take their course. Growing old is a good thing especially if you lived your life the best you knew how to. We have no power over our birth and our death; and also have no power over what the heavens intended. Yes, there are all kinds of cosmetic surgeries to delay or mask the aging process. But why? Why bother with a body that looks as beautiful today as it was yesterday? In old-age, the body simply looks beautiful in a different sort of way.

For most of us, we simply couldn’t wait to mature. At five, we longed to be ten and then fifteen. At sixteen, we couldn’t wait to be twenty and thirty and all that. Rare is the person who wanted to be a child or an adolescent for ever. You graduated from high school and from college and then enter the job market. You look forward to marriage and to having kids and grandkids. And then you look forward to retirement. You look forward to happiness. You look forward to living and having a joyous and fruitful life. You pray to your God to endow you with long, happy and healthy life.

In essence, you look forward to life. And to living. No matter what life brings our way, we must live life. Eleanor Roosevelt it was who said, “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” In old age, as in our youth, we must dream and aspire; we must set sail to new adventures and meet new challenges; we must touch the flowers and the wind; we must drink from life’s nectar; and bask in life’s possibilities. Somehow, and unfortunately, some of us would lose our bearing. We would lose our zest for life.

Life comes at us in uncanny ways. We may lose a home, a job, a career, or things that mean a lot to us. Some may face financial ruins, illnesses, or debilitating injuries. Sadly, some of us would lose loved-ones long before their hour. Things happen. Life happens. Bad things happen to good people; and good things happen to bad people. Things we have no control over happens. How, for instance, do one explain why the kind and compassionate amongst us die long before their time, while the totally reprehensible tend to live for eternity. No one knows the reasons for such injustice. Even so, life must go on.

Old-age is a beautiful and satisfying place to be. At the very least, it indicates you are a survival and may have lived a life many wished they could have. Old-age is golden. How many summers and winters and springs have you celebrated? How many smiles and laughter have you witnessed or heard? How many chuckles and smirks. How many acts of love and kindness have you shared? How many times do you suppose you have imbued others with cheerfulness? Ha, the hugs and the kisses and hope and whispers and the cascading laughter that touched the heart of others. And the lives you have given and helped shape. And so, don’t despair over the aging process. Hug your body parts. Accept and celebrate who you are. Rejoice!

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Godwin Kwushue September 13, 2006 - 12:01 pm

Elder Sabella Abidde, age is a thing of the mind you are as old as you feel. Some are just 30s but behaves like persons in their 70s, it could also be vice versa. When I started reading your article, it was my hope that I shall come across your views on aging and Nigerian women, but that was not to be.

I have witnessed embarrassing situations where young men tend to want to show respect to some fifty something year-old Nigerian ladies by calling them MADAM which is a mark of respect and you can not figure out where their angst and scorn is coming from when you hear words like this man take your time abi na me born your mama, useless man. As I write, I am yet to make out the reasons for this kind of outburst, is it an effort to pull the wool across eyes of all and sundry or an effort by such ladies to get the message to younger men that they are still game. Besides, the kind or response you get, when you ask a Nigerian lady what her age is, suggests that you the enquirer must be a very cruel person. I do not understand the reason being this phenomenon and it is quite unfortunate that it has gained currency among our people.

Our age at anytime and how we got there is not important the difference we are able to make in the life of others as we journey through life is what counts and to be able to make a difference we must be considerate, selfless and above all treat others the way we will want them to treat us

Godwin Kwushue

San Diego.

Reply August 25, 2006 - 2:22 pm

Ah, if only we knew the secret to happiness brother Sabella…if only…we wouldn't always want what we don't have the power to give ourselves.


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