Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Aging & Society

Indignities of age vs. indignities of youth: a matter of perspective?

From  / 
It was one of those tough weeks. I lost a hearing aid on a flight.

 I began to see double while driving at night. And in rushing to catch a train – something I’d vowed never to do – I dropped my senior metro card onto the tracks. Clearly, I was off-kilter. Although 71 and “formally” retired, I’d started a full-fledged consulting practice and was trying to squeeze increasingly more in.

Ugh!  The indignities of age. The hurdles of frailty are hard enough to endure when they come one at a time. When they arrive in threes, it’s even more disheartening.  Is it a warning pattern? Or just happenstance?

It immediately got me thinking – what could I do to reduce the impact? 

  • First, slow down. Don’t hurry to get off that plane. Be in the moment; think about where you’re stashing that hearing aid.  While others are lunging forward to make their exits, take your time, collect your thoughts and belongings, and be content with being one of the last to leave. What’s the big rush, anyway?  I promised myself I’d build more transition time into future travel schedules.
  • Second, keep things in perspective. While losing a hearing aid or a metro card certainly entails inconvenience and expense, each situation can be corrected with a little effort.  And I did move expeditiously to address and replace each loss.  But having your vision blur while behind the wheel is no joke. The next day, I scheduled an appointment with my ophthalmologist, and decided, in the meantime, to let others do the driving. I soon had my new eyeglasses.  
  • Third, think back on your youth. You had some glitches then too.  Eyeglasses:  the embarrassment of being the first in my fifth grade class to be told I would need to get some. Rejection: when I asked the girl of my dreams to the first prom and her response was an unequivocal and heartbreaking “no.” Bullies: I remember the fear and humiliation when a particularly muscular classmate pushed me out of the way in full view of the other kids (even with imperfect vision, I later did just fine on the football field).   

There’s an interesting symmetry in the different stages of our lives. In our earlier and later years, perhaps we’re more sensitive to slights, failings and disappointments.  In the great long middle part, we’re too consumed by the need to plow ahead to pay them much heed. 

When we’re young, we have a quality called resilience. While painful, our personal setbacks usually fade as new challenges and opportunities crowd in.  As an older adult, we’ve got an advantage even more powerful – wisdom. With experience, we’ve learned that even the worst of times passes. That when one door closes, another opens.

So when I asked myself which is harder to bear – the indignities of age or the indignities of youth? – The answer was clear.

Read More In Aging & Society

It's time to stop worrying about getting old and start enjoying it.
Get Oldspired →