BY DAVID PIEPLOW – contributing writer
An elderly farmer in Florida had a large pond next to his fruit orchard. One early evening, he decided to go down to the pond to pick some fruit. As he neared the pond, he heard joyful female voices giggling and laughing and shouting. As he came closer he thought he saw eight or ten young women skinny-dipping in the pond. With his hand covering his eyes, the old gentleman made the women aware of his presence. Quickly, the girls went to the deep end as one shouted, “We’re not coming out until you leave.” The senior farmer thought for a second and replied, “I didn’t come down here to watch you ladies swim or to make you get out of the pond without your clothes.” Holding up his bucket he said, “I’m just here to feed the alligator.” Aging can be lots of fun and can include a variety of blessings if we remember the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
I believe that aging is a great adventure jam-packed with an abundance of blessings; opportunities to deepen and enrich our lives. But before we can experience any blessing, we have to be comfortable with growing older. Louise Hay, a motivational American author, and founder of Hay House once said, “Know that you are the perfect age. Each year, each day, is special and precious, for you shall only live it once. Be comfortable with growing older.” When we embrace the aging process, new and unexpected blessings embrace us.
The fastest growing segment of the American population, the healthiest, and longest lived; most educated and most active body the world has ever known is comprised of people sixty-five and older. Some are retired, some are still working, but all lead busy lives filled with a brand new agenda of daily activities. No more trying to achieve status or power. No more seeking to become an accomplished adult whose major goal is to grow money, work, or family. No more “building block mentality”.
My parents and grandparents retired to Sun City Center, a planned Del Webb senior community outside of Tampa, Florida. For about fifty years I have been a visiting part of this “colossal city of seniors”. Have you ever been to a senior community? There are more daily activities than the menu selections at the Cheesecake Factory in the Galleria! Many seniors play golf at least three times a week. Others have weekly card games, lawn bowling, aquatic activities, arts and crafts clubs, and over a hundred other opportunities. My Nana and Grampy signed up for most of them! For the first time in their lives, my parents and their parents had time to enjoy the present. They had the blessing of time in their own little senior world called Sun City Center and they loved every minute of every day.
My elderly family members also enjoyed the newness or freshness of life. This blessing of aging lies in the truth that life is not over, but beginning again in a whole new way. For my grandparents, their six children were all grown up and had children of their own; their house was paid for as well as the required social security “dues”. The long hours, beginning at 2 AM, running the very best bakery in Boston, Mass, was all over. It was time for a new adventure. All the things they wanted to do, all the significant bits and pieces they had to put aside for years, Nana and Grampy now could command their absolute attention. They got up every morning and began life all over again basking in the warm sunshine of Florida.
Someone once said (probably my grandmother),
“Listen to your elder’s advice, not because they are always right but because they have more experiences of being wrong.”
One of the greatest blessings of aging is wisdom. Seniors bring to society something very precious – a brand new perspective on life. The quality of their reflections on life is, not possible with young people, not important to middle-aged people; only insightful elders. They can see what is valuable in life, what lasts in life, and what counts in life.
And what do they see? Relationships. When there are no more schedules, no more stuff that has to be done, what is left? Family, friends, neighbors, community – people of all ages. One of the greatest blessings of aging has to be the luxury of placing people before things. Growing older should never isolate us, but bring us closer to the individuals around us.
All of these blessings can only be experienced when we answer the question first asked by the greatest and oldest recorded baseball pitcher of all time, Satchel Paige,
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”
Aging is truly a great adventure overflowing with blessings if you’re young enough to enjoy them! Happy journey!