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The Relevance of getting Old

One of the ironies of old age is that too often we fail to follow the very advice we've been dishing out for the last few decades, or at least recognize the value of what those years have taught us. Chances are we once told our children to not care what others think of us, to follow our hearts and be true to ourselves. Some have gone deeper into the think-tank of parental wisdom and introduced our children to the notion that life is not only full of choices, but that our lives are, in fact, nothing more or less than the sum of the choices that we've made for ourselves. Sure, we all begin the journey from different places and with different gifts and circumstances, but the primary factor in how it all turns out - at least according to standards of wealth, health, and most importantly, happiness and fulfillment - is nothing more mysterious than how we've responded to each challenge and each opportunity that comes our way.

Nobody is arguing that getting older can be hard, especially on an emotional level. In today's high pressure, technology-driven society it's easy to feel left behind, less than relevant, even clueless. It's too easy to return to views and habits that, while considered old news by most, at least deliver some measure of comfort and familiarity. Health issues and the lack of energy, more often the fear of them, and social pressures thinly disguised as "norms" can drive us toward apathy and even entropy, planting us squarely in the cheap seats watching others play the game of life we once embraced as our own. And this is where the irony kicks and, with a decidedly positive spin, perhaps kicks open the door to a new and rewarding world view.

Life, and how we live it, continues to be a choice at every stage. There is no age, no medical condition and no circumstance that closes the door on the choice to remain positive and loving. There are always activities and resources available, new roads to travel, new things to learn, avenues of growth explore. If the richness of life is defined by the meaning we bring to it and the meaning we give to it - to our sense of relevance - the elderly are in a unique position to teach and share. And if nothing else, to experience the lives of family and friends in ways that make each day a true gift.

Hope is fuel of the human spirit, and on many levels. The key to embracing our later years is to do so with hope and relevance, to engage in ways that touch others, to achieve what we can and never close the door to learning and growth. Dylan Thomas advised us to rage against the dying of the light, to not go quietly into that good night. The happiest among us heed that wisdom, not with rage in a literal sense - anger is the antithesis of grace and happiness - but rather with passion and positive energy.

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