Saturday, August 18, 2018

Growing Old Gracefully

We all get old and the books on how to do this gracefully are many. In the Catholic Peace Weekly a review of a book written by a Seoul Diocesan priest on this issue has gone into a second printing within a month of publication.

Aging is part of life. When we reach middle age, wrinkles occur, energy diminishes, thoughts and attitudes become hardened. When young, we had the strength to listen to others, but with age, even this gets harder. Growing old gracefully is easy to talk about but not so easy in the doing.

Growing Old Gracefully is a guide to lead adults to communicate with 'dignified authority'. Since we are going to age it's best to do it with grace.

One of the traits of the elderly is to spend a great deal of time in the past and little time in the present and future. This mentality will obviously keep the young away and bring loneliness to the elderly. The older we get the more we fear change, but if we remain the same we will regress.

The writer gives us the word Olympics to help remember his 8 recipes for aging with grace. Openness, Listening, Yielding, Modesty (humility), Possessions, Interest, Clean and bright, (Smile, Spirit and Soul).

We need to be open and listen to the stories around us. Opening ourselves is sometimes accompanied by pain but without the pain, we fail to grow inwardly, personally and spiritually. Listening to those around us; stepping back and yielding to others; modesty and humility; not grasping our possessions but emptying ourselves; interest in life; clean and cheerful and finishing with the last chapter on Smiling, Spirit, and Soul.

One strong message of the book is the age question in Korea. How old are you? Unlike the West, Korea is a society with strong formal authority. The senior/junior relationship is very strong and makes for a great deal of formality, lack of spontaneity and naturalness. 

We are obsessed with what we possess and often make much of the cultural bias of the young and forget the bias of the elderly. Real authority is not only based on age and position but comes from genuinely dignified and respectful behavior. Adults should not stick only to their own values and worldviews but have an open mind and listen to the opinions of others.

The writer emphasized the importance of the 'inner journey'. When focused on the 'external journey',   we're overcome with youthful vigor, external appearance and desire to know the world; he recommends we begin learning to become a 'mature old person' through reading, retreats, prayer, and meditation. "Let's be like the sun during the twilight, passionately painting the the world beautifully."