Monday, October 29, 2012

The Twilight Years

Baby boomers are now reaching retirement age, and what this means for Korea is the topic of the View from the Ark column in the Catholic Times. The columnist begins with a sijo  (a short lyrical poem) a teacher gave him on graduating from middle school: "In one hand a stick, in the other, thorns to beat and prevent the approach of old age, but no matter what is done, the white hairs will come."

According to the census of 2010. our society is aging rapidly: 11 percent of the population is over 65; in 2018, it is predicted to be over 18 percent; in 2026, over 20 percent. One-fourth of those over 65, however, are still active in society; over half of them in some religious capacity.

From a Catholic perspective, the statistics show that more than 20 percent of Catholics are more than 60  years of age, and more than 19 percent are in their 50s. The Church is getting older quicker than the larger society. The advance of the nuclear family and early retirement means that the concern for the elderly will soon be a societal problem. According to a survey made by the bureau of statistics the  concerns of those over 65 are money and health.

The elderly also want more health examinations: 33 percent; nursing care: 29 percent; help with home chores, 16 percent; and help in finding a job, 8 percent. Consequently, the problems in the future, the columnist says, will be poverty, disease, loneliness, living alone, and difficulty in finding work, which means the burden on society will increase.

The setting sun gives us the beautiful twilight hours of the evening. And at this time of year, autumn gives us the beautiful colors of falling leaves. We come into the world with blessings, and after our formal education and overcoming the vicissitudes of  life, we too enter our twilight years. What will that  mean for most of us?

The columnist tells us the elders have much to teach the generations that will follow. There is the wisdom of age: learning from poverty, lessons from life, and asceticism.  We all desire to live the happy life. Are the elders in our society living the happy life?

Many have told us about the beauty of old age. St Augustine tells us of his discovery of God, in his old age: "Late have I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved you! Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you; and upon the shapely things you  have made I rushed headlong."  St. Francis de Sales tells us in the Introduction to the Devout Life that we, like a pearl in a clam, should be a pearl of joy to the world.

The twilight years  are the years during which we should have emptied ourselves of the accidentals of life for its essentials and a trust in God. Living with thanks, mellowness, humility, and love, we can rest finally in the enjoyment of the everlasting life we have received on our journey of pilgrimage to God.