Old as the Hills

Age is a moveable number determined by our internal joie de vivre quotient, or so we are often told. According to this premise, we are just as old as we feel. Our true age may be 75 or 85, but we might still prefer to be 50 or 60 in our mind’s eye.

The Internet is awash in pages that celebrate aging well. You can find the

35 Best Age Quotes, 14 of the Best Quotes About Aging, 70 Best Getting Older Quotes About Aging Gracefully and so on and so forth. Amazon has no end of books that want us to get the most out of our later years. Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives is one. Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don’t Have To is another. It turns out that aging may be the only thing that unites all of us living on Planet Earth at any given moment. Each and every one of us here today will be one day older tomorrow if we are blessed to open our eyes in the morning. Or as Eleanor Roosevelt once put it, “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again.”

Albert Einstein admonished us: “Do not grow old, no matter how long you live.”  No other than Benjamin Franklin told us that Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late. On aging, Gabriel García Márquez knowingly wrote What happens is that you don’t feel it on the inside, but from the outside everybody can see it.

There is no wealth of opinion zeroed in on aging.

No other than Sophia Loren has had her say: “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”  Sorry, Sophia, no matter how well felt your observations, I don’t believe any of us ever defeats age. I prefer Golda Meir’s insight, “Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you are aboard there is nothing you can do about it.”

We all age, whether we like it or not. Sooner of later, thoughts of aging will come home to roost for even the youngest of us alive today.

Many of us, getting older, are happy to share our later years with our family and long established, or even new, friends. We are ready to put our energy to work in the effort of reflection, contributing where we can, thoughtfulness and winding down. We never quite put it in terms of letting go, but yeah we are learning to let go.

Many of us, as I said, but not all.

These days, there are still music stars going strong well on in years – Cher is 76, Streisand 80, Dolly Parton 75, Bob Dylan 80, Ringo Starr 81. Yet, no other than Mike Jagger 78, recently had this to say, Rock ’n’ roll, or any kind of pop music honestly, isn’t supposed to be done when you’re in your 70s. It wasn’t designed for that.

A lot of life, in fact, was never designed for doing in our 70’s or 80’s. Of course, we have never turned to our rock stars to lead us. They get on with their business in the background of our lives. We don’t check in with them on a daily basis. A new song, a new record, drops whenever they have something new to share, every year, every 5 or 10.

We do check in, however, with those we have voted or not voted for, with those in charge of the leadership of our future more often than we should, perhaps, those who have chosen to represent, to influence or to channel their wisdom into setting the best path forward for our children, grandchildren and their grandchildren.

The desire for the glory of leadership in later life, it turns out, is distributed only among a certain few, but that certain few influence, and how, our daily lives to an inordinate degree.

Putin is on the cusp of his 70’s, younger – even if more delusional – than many of his peers. Not far behind him at all, Trump came to office in January 2017, the oldest ever US President at the time, sworn in at the age of 70. If he were to come back to haunt us and win in 2024, he would be 77 on election day and 81 when leaving office. Biden does him one better. Our current President took office when he was 78. If he runs again, wins and completes a second term, he would be 86 by the time 2028 comes round.

Here are a couple of excerpts from a recent New York Times piece on a Biden second term:

To nearly all the Democrats interviewed, the president’s age — 79 now, 82 by the time the winner of the 2024 election is inaugurated — is a deep concern about his political viability. They have watched as a commander in chief who built a reputation for gaffes has repeatedly rattled global diplomacy with unexpected remarks that were later walked back by his White House staff, and as he has sat for fewer interviews than any of his recent predecessors.

… The presidency is a monstrously taxing job and the stark reality is the president would be closer to 90 than 80 at the end of a second term, and that would be a major issue,” said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Barack Obama’s two winning presidential campaigns.

Trump and Biden are not the only US or world leaders not yet ready to let go.

Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch in the history of the United Kingdom. She recently celebrated he 96th birthday and announced no date to relinquish her powers.

Nicaragua’s dictator, Daniel Ortega, is 76. His accompice wife, Rosario Murillo, is 70.

Republican Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, is 80. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, is 82.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was still a Supreme Court Justice when she died at the age of 87.

Diane Feinstein, 88, is at a crossroads. Once again the Times offers insight. Feinstein, the Times reports is far from the towering presence she once was on the American political stage. The Times continues:

At 88, Ms. Feinstein sometimes struggles to recall the names of colleagues, frequently has little recollection of meetings or telephone conversations, and at times walks around in a state of befuddlement — including about why she is increasingly dogged by questions about whether she is fit to serve in the Senate representing the 40 million residents of California, according to half a dozen lawmakers and aides who spoke about the situation on the condition of anonymity.

To age is human. Aging is real. As much as we might try, we cannot deny it. We lose some of our abilities as we get older. Yes, some of us can still do bungee jumps. I can assure you that those are the few and far between. The World Health Organization defines aging thus:

 At the biological level, ageing results from the impact of the accumulation of a wide variety of molecular and cellular damage over time. This leads to a gradual decrease in physical and mental capacity, a growing risk of disease and ultimately death.

Getting older, it turns out, is really a thing.

Benedict XVI ruled his Catholic flock until he resigned as Pope, aged 85, in 2013. He cited a lack of strength of mind and body in annoucing his decision. The present Pope, Francis 85 is ailing in health, and if rumors are true, also on the cusp of announcing his resignation. We should applaud him if that is the case. Knowing when to step down and when to bow out is not only admirable and counter-cultural to a certain extent, but at times necessary.

We set limits for those wanting to enter our leadership roles. To be President of the United States, you have to be at least 35. To be a Senator, you need to be 30. To be a Representative in the House, 25.

Perhaps it’s time to contemplate upper limits for those in power. We don’t have any in place. Life expectancy was not the same when our Constitution, rules and regulations were written. The World Health Organization, again, reminds us that:

People worldwide are living longer. Today most people can expect to live into their sixties and beyond. Every country in the world is experiencing growth in both the size and the proportion of older persons in the population.

… By 2030, 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 60 years or over. At this time the share of the population aged 60 years and over will increase from 1 billion in 2020 to 1.4 billion. By 2050, the world’s population of people aged 60 years and older will double (2.1 billion). The number of persons aged 80 years or older is expected to triple between 2020 and 2050 to reach 426 million.

The Social Security Agency defines eligibility for full retirement as 66 if you were born from 1943 to 1954. Biden was born in 1942, Trump in 1946. They could both easily step back from the public arena right now with a robust pension if only humility would allow them to do so.

Is that ever going to to happen.

Of course not.

In the meantime, the internet is overflowing with positive sentiment on the plus side of retirement. AAG, (Retire Better) has the 60 Best Inspirational and Funny Retirement Sayings. Senior Living has 30 retirement quotes. Southern Living has its 50 Retirement Quotes That Will Resonate With Any Retiree.