No one wants to get old. I remember my dear mother, who sadly left us two years ago, was not keen on going into a nursing home. She fought tooth and nail for as long as possible, until a nasty fall and a broken wrist settled the matter once-and-for-all.
She spent more than two years at the home, which her six children often described as the ‘Hilton Hotel’ of nursing homes. But Mum didn’t see it that way and we couldn’t blame her. After about a year she finally relented and admitted the nursing home wasn’t too bad.
That said, getting old, as Mum used to say, “is not much fun”. A book, It’s no sin to be sixty: A positive look at the Third Age by Neville Smith (Redemptorist Publications) examines the question of age and how people react to their age later in life. Neville is a retired Anglican priest who lives in London.
In the book’s introduction Neville reflects on his own upbringing and his time as a young vicar in North Yorkshire. The town of Castleton had an old men’s park where the men of the village would gather and talk about issues affecting them, their friends and neighbours. For Neville, the park posed several questions: Who are the old men? How do we quantify or justify the description? At what point does a person become old? Is there some chronological or physiological description? And how do we define old age?
Neville says irrespective of how people accept their age later in life and whether it’s a positive or negative experience, we all have one thing in common as we age: we do a lot of remembering, reminiscing and reflecting. “We have gained a lot of experience on our passage through life and our memories are an important part of us,” says Neville. “The painful ones we cannot, nor should we, seek to deny. The enjoyable and happy ones we can go over, relive and take pleasure in again.”
He says in his book that people should use the same process when they look at their relationship with God. “ … It provides us with the opportunity to reflect on our faith, explore new directions and themes within it, so that we can deepen our understanding of, and enrich our relationship with, God.
“In the process of writing I have reflected personally and find that the process has affirmed my perception of God and, I believe, deepened my understanding of God,” says Neville.
Titles of some of the chapters are: Self-esteem; Religion and spirituality; It’s okay to be me; Ageing is not for softies; Life is an enigma; and Senior moments. Prayers and reflections are also provided at the end of each chapter.
For example, this is the prayer at the end of ‘Life is an enigma’:
We lay before you
the enigma of our lives,
and the final enigma of our death.
Give us grace to live our lives
to the full until their end,
and faith to leave to you
the unfolding of the last enigma
when we enter into your presence
and find that all will be revealed. Amen.
In the last chapter, titled, “What a wonderful world”, Neville leaves us with this observation. “Every day amongst the bad news that is heaped upon us, there are countless acts of human kindness which are not thought worthy of mention. Self-giving is taken for granted, and usually goes unreported. This is the pattern of God’s involvement in our life.”
David Ahern is editor, Majellan Magazine. It’s no sin to be sixty: A positive look at the Third Age by Neville Smith (Redemptorist Publications) is available from Majellan Bookstore for $29.95 (including GST and postage).