Ah, we should all grow old as gracefully as Jane Fonda or Sophia Loren. We should also grow old gratefully like Donald Trump or Warren Buffett. I will take either one, but preferably both. It would be a rarity indeed, but I don’t mind testing the odds.
Let’s start with grace. It means moving in a smooth and attractive way, and having a pleasing shape or style. Not many oldsters fit this description so we can modify it a bid. Growing old gracefully means that you look and feel your best and not a day older. It means taking care of yourself physically through diet and exercise, and dressing as nicely as you can: be it casual or elegant. It means not sending shivers down other people’s spines when they catch a glimpse in the grocery store or on the street. It means not wearing rags and forgetting there is drool on your chin.
Growing old gracefully can be an art and it is quite difficult for those who let themselves go. You have to get rid of that paunch, stand up straight, pull your shoulders back, and face the world head on. You have to set a good example of how great the elder years can be. You have to make people believe it and change perceptions once and for all.
And it isn’t just about appearance and health, although they count for a lot. You have to keep your wits about you and your mind sharp to grow old gracefully. No apologies for losing one’s marbles or having senior moments. It shouldn’t be an oddity that people remark about how much a senior has their mind intact as if it were all that unusual. Of course, we have our minds! Where on earth would they go?
Growing old gratefully is an entirely different matter. To me it has to do with success and the thanks one feels at having more than one’s fair share of it. You are grateful to be alive at ninety, of course, and to have many grandchildren. You are grateful to be able to live where you want and to stay active and vibrant. But more than anything, you are grateful for the financial freedom that prevents you from running out of income too soon and facing senior poverty.
Gracefulness and gratefulness: may you be blessed with both in short order. May you represent Hemingway’s saying that “living well is the best revenge” and that “life is a moveable feast.” May you find fulfillment of all the promise you felt was your life’s calling. If you will it, it can happen. You can age elegantly and eloquently; you can mature with mastery; and you can face senility and conquer it. We are as strong and vibrant as we want to be in our hearts and minds, and if we work hard at it, people will not be surprised as more and more of us show just how wonderful the senior years can actually be.