We recently put up a Facebook post about Isa Leshko, an artist whose work focuses on themes relating to ageing, mortality and animal rights.
The article’s themes surrounding the beauty in aging got me thinking about how here in the western world, we tend to see ageing from a negative perspective.
We live in a youth obsessed culture that regards the physical signs of human ageing with distaste.
I’ve learnt that different cultures have alternative attitudes towards ageing and this can have a significant impact on what it’s like to grow old, meaning that ageing stretches beyond the biological and can also be social.
For example, there are Asian societies that celebrate old age and wouldn’t have it any other way. I particularly like the way 60th and 70th birthdays are marked in Korea. The hwan-gap, or 60th birthday, is a joyous time when children celebrate their parents’ passage into old age A similar family celebration is held for the 70th birthday, known as kohCui (literally – ‘old and rare’).
What if us ‘young westerners’ changed our attitude? Or will our ageing population start to turn this around by default, simply by the benefit of numbers? With more people joining the ranks of 60+, there’s a groundswell of support ahead for a greater focus on the positive aspects of old age.
One perspective is to consider the perhaps unexpected joys of ageing. An article in the Wall Street Journal article explores this topic. They report that many elders experience a greater sense of serenity, the sheer joy that one can just be a grandparent and enjoy it. And for those who have worked full time most of their adult life, they suddenly have the time to do those things they simply haven’t had time for until now. Oliver Sacks in an NY Times story said of old age “that it is a time of leisure and freedom, and enlargement of mental life and perspective.” Provided of course you have the resources and good health to make this possible.
But in this article about the 11 Positive Things Nobody tells you about Ageing, there’s one unexpected joy that appeals to me – that it’s OK to play the fool again and you can get away with it whenever you want! I personally am looking forward to growing old and bringing with me the wisdom of prior experiences and memories of my life thus far. Here’s to ageing; you can’t avoid it, but you can choose to celebrate it.