Robison: Thoughts On Getting Older

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(HOST) Commentator Olin Robison has some advice about growing older – especially useful for boomers and beyond.

(ROBINSON) I have reached the point which the British so gently call "a certain age."  It is their way of not having to guess your age – which might prove embarrassing both to that person and to you.  So terribly polite!

There is an old saying to the effect that "Growing Old Is not for Sissies"; and it is certainly true.  Someone I heard recently said the older person is the same person, just older.  And that, of course, is also true.

I used to know a rather famous person in Washington.  A couple of years before he died, I visited him in D.C and found him visibly upset; it turned out that he had just been visited by a young woman from the New York Times.  She was charged with writing what they called a "Contingency Obituary."  He was distressed because he had given her a quote and she refused to write it down.  Later, after he had died, I checked the Times, and, sure enough, it was NOT there.  What he had said was, "Memory is the first thing to go; sex is the second.  But the memory of sex never goes."

So, dear friends, here are a few guidelines to help all those Boomers as they get older:

First, slow down (it is said that you should smell the roses) and pay attention to what you are doing.  I have discovered that slowing down works miracles.  The truth is that speed doesn’t matter much and multitasking is overrated.

Second, nothing physical heals as quickly as it used to. There may be some compensation for this in that mental wounds tend to heal more quickly than in the past.

Third, adjust.  Certain things are no longer possible.  I know, for instance, that I am never going to run the Boston Marathon.  Never have, of course; but the difference is that now I know for sure that I never will.

Fourth, attitude matters.  Many years ago I was pastor of a small Rural church in Texas.  Never mind that this story is rather politically incorrect, although it wasn’t back then.  One of my responsibilities was to record the Sunday morning service and then deliver it to various elderly "ladies" (never women, always "ladies") who were confined to their homes.   I eventually consulted a more senior pastor about the best way to do this.  What he told me was that in the mind of each elderly "lady" was someone younger; namely herself.  If I, said he, could figure out the age of the younger woman and then treat the "lady" accordingly, good things would happen.  He was right, of course.  I am genuinely convinced that age, within reason, has as much to do with attitude and self perception as with chronology.

Fifth, and finally, cheer up: you aren’t as old as you think.  A friend in Texas used to say that Middle Age is 10 years on either side of wherever you are. I have one friend who just turned 50, and she thinks she is old – what nonsense!  A few days from now I go to Washington to speak at a dinner honoring a man who will soon turn 95.  A couple of years ago this lovely man told me that once you turn 90, when people say to you, "You’re looking great," what they really mean is, "Good Grief, I thought you were dead!"

Now for you, dear listener, the "blessing" that Spock used to use on Star Trek will do nicely.  He used to say, simply, "Live Long, and Prosper."  And that is what I wish for you.

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