Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Milestone Birthday

Another milestone birthday, but somehow this one feels different.  At 62 and eligible to collect old age social security benefits, it’s hard to deny the onset of elderhood.  And, in case I was trying to deny it, the recent issue of Discover took away any hope of success.

Work took me on a whirl-wind visit to Tallahassee this week for college recruiting.  After the career fair, I had four hours at the six-gate airport on my hands before my 8:00 PM flight.  I bought two magazines and devoured their complete contents.  The feature article of one magazine, Discover, was “The End of Youth.”  Subtle, huh?

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a certain decline of capabilities and faculties.  I don’t run anymore due to absence of knee cartilage, and my vision and hearing aren’t what they used to be.  On top of this, between recent gout attacks and diagnosis of early stage Age-Related Macular Degeneration, I can’t deny that life is giving me some hints that I’m no longer a spring chicken.

The Discover issue was really about demographics and the aging of world populations.  Projections for the world of 2100 were fascinating.  And there was a lot to be optimistic about trends for a time I won’t see.  But one article, “The Aging Brain,” was a tad depressing. 

The “brutal truths” are that the world will become “slower, fuzzier, more forgetful and just a bit hard of hearing” with increasing population age.  But the mind scans of 27 year-old and 87 year-old brain subarachnoid space, ventricles and white-matter tracts (whatever they are) took the article from general and abstract to individual and personal. None of us will escape the inevitability of biology.

If there’s a silver lining, the fortunate among us have a long, slow off-ramp.  Faculties decline gradually and at an imperceptible rate.  And we’re good at adapting, coping and, especially, at rationalization.  Let me demonstrate.

Faced with the inevitability of decline and demise, I can choose to be depressed.  Or, instead, I can choose to focus on the miracle, mystery and adventure of life and to be grateful and joyful.  I aspire to the latter and, on my best days, using my capacity for denial and rationalization, I can get there. 
Works for me, anyway.