Mankind has historically venerated strength and athletic ability. The Roman Coliseum, perhaps, the best known of ancient stadia, was, like the Greek Amphitheater, dedicated to the Gods, and erected for the huge public spectatorship of regularly scheduled, athletic tournaments, known as the Olympics, or the “Games.” Research indicates, that contests and feats of exhibited strength and athletic performance, date back to the early days of man, and testifies to the eternal nature of man’s high regard for physical prowess. Modern society reprises this tradition, by its idolization of outstanding athletes, such as Babe Ruth, Joe Louis, Michael Jordan, Pele, LeBron James, and a full myriad of others. Vast numbers of sports stadia have been erected, in which multiple thousands of fans cheer for high performing, professional and college athletes, who are later, lionized on television, radio, and throughout the written media.
Although we include ourselves, among the many fans, and do share the admiration for the idolized (and magnificently rewarded) athletes, we nevertheless, are of the view that our Nation evinces a populist imbalance of priorities, in its extreme degree of adulation of athletic talent, as compared with its relatively understated, response to scientific and literary accomplishment; but this is another subject appropriately, reserved for a separate writing. The present writing concerns aging, rationally, and happily.
The popularly subscribed medium of television, (presumably, for commercial reasons) consistently links strength and physical capability, with success, pride and self -respect; and, contrariwise, fatigue and aging, with express or implied failure. This priority, may be savvy marketing, but in its biased fashion, demonstrates a tactical and insensitive, failure of awareness and respect, for the natural stages of man, who, with the immutable passage of time, by predictable and normal degrees, progresses, to naturally, a loss of physical strength and prowess. This intentional bias, demeans a very substantial portion of our population, inclusive of those fortunate enough to enjoy relative good, health, and those who do not. The criteria for manliness or femininity, instructively illustrated, by the, commercially motivated media, if realistic, at all, are in essence, ephemeral, fleeting, and temporary, being necessarily dependent, upon the stage of the aging process.
Admittedly, with aging, physical performance declines in ease and efficiency, recent memories may be challenged, and physical appearance often reveals cogent evidence of many years of living. On the emotional and intellectual side, however, many seniors enjoy certain substantial and profound advantages over younger people. We will elucidate on this phenomenon.
The acquisition of a mature perspective, we are certain, is not only a major stepping stone in the path to the achievement of wisdom but an essential factor in one’s happiness and self –fulfillment. We can see little achieved learning more necessary to the progress of life, or to the exercise of right reason, then the ability to seasonably, evaluate oneself, in relation to his environment and situation. Rational and realistic perception may be among the most vital criteria for emotional health, and the acceptable exercise of judgment.
If the inclination for personal comparison is, ultimately useful at all, basic reason prescribes that the relevant examples have comparable similarity. No one compares size, as between a rabbit and a giraffe. The criteria, applicable to physical fitness, strength, and athletic ability, is one which, as a matter of reason, empirically varies with age and health. A grandfather in his 80’s cannot, usefully, measure his strength and virility with a 20 year- old Olympic athlete, nor should the average, or aging, sports fan, measure his personal prowess, by comparison with the young, professional athlete. The reverence by the advertising agencies, for beautiful bodies, is an expression of their mission, to sell merchandise, and not necessarily, an appropriate reflection of the community’s expectation of its own attainment of that unrealistic criterion. Rational comparison depends upon the commonality of the relevant subjects.
We would be remiss in candor and our sense of fairness, if we omitted a brief comment on the benefits, of being older. Gone and done with, by such age, are life stresses, such as, school and grades, choice of career, marriage and family stresses, including the issues implicit in raising children, fantasized success, competition, earnings, and employment. For the healthy elder, what comfortably remains is peace. Those who have developed sufficient internal resources additionally, have the life-affirming opportunity to pursue their life-long interests such as literature, art, gardening, collection, and travel.
Contrary to certain immature, ego-centric opinion, aging is not a disease; to the contrary, for those elders with relatively good health, it constitutes an undisturbed and continuing opportunity, for growth, advancement, and the fulfillment of postponed, lifetime aspirations.