Age is an interesting thing. When we are young, many of us dream of the day that we get to be grown ups! The age old rite of the coming of age, getting new privileges, being able to drive, drink, live independently and all the other cool things that happen when you become an adult. The enthusiasm for ageing is short lived for some people, with old age acting as some strange spectre of decay in the lives of many, perhaps a strange phenomenon seeing as every second that passes we are each getting older.
Anne Karpf writes on the topic, looking into the whys and what’s of the cultural significance of aging. I must admit, it is not something to which I give lots of thought personally, I am not prone to worrying about getting older, but having turned 30 last year, I know plenty of people that do have worries about the effects of ageing.
How To Age is quite interesting, but I feel like it is a great conversation starter rather than being a brilliant read cover to cover. It makes sense that this would be the case, as it is part of the School of Life series of books. Designed to encourage discussion of the big issues of life and living, the School of Life was started by philosopher Alain De Botton to provide a forum for this kind of investigation.
Short chapters, multiple view points and some historical context help Karpf make some interesting points. She brings up the fact that age is a strange kind of discrimination that we have against others, but also against ourselves (or rather our older selves). Looking upon our own ageing process with disdain only increases the anxiety that we might feel about getting older.
Looking at ageing as merely a process of decay, rather than celebrating the gains in wisdom, serenity and satisfaction causes a very negative view of age and older people. So rather than simply looking at age as something which needs to be hidden, delayed and defeated, we need to look at it for what it really is, a process that we begin the day we are born.
How To Age offers a few insights into the things that can help with the process. Making an effort to have communities where people of all ages mix helps make the prospect of aging less terrifying, as young people spend time with older people, while simultaneously keeping the older ones feeling younger and more connected as they get to spend time with people who help them ‘feel younger’.
The kind of ‘age apartheid’ that we have in many western society, certainly contributes to the negative connotations associated with ageing. Separating older people off into separate villages, aged care facilities and nursing homes means that it is possible in the future that some people will never meet an older person until they themselves are of age. I had never considered the apartheid nature of the way that we segregate older people into separate communities. It occurs to me after reading this book that we run the risk of losing a lot of valuable information, connection and love as we isolate people solely based on their age.
In a time where being physically less strong is probably as unimportant as it’s ever been thanks to the evolution of technology, the physical decay of the ageing process should matter less and less. We should look to the ageing population for all the wonderful things that they can contribute, so that we may each look forward to ageing ourselves as well.
Interesting points and a quick read make this one a reasonable beach read, it never hurts to take the time to understand the pressures and concerns of any strata of society, especially one that you are going to be a part of. The School Of Life series is a great bunch of books if you enjoy thinking about the things you are reading. I’m sure I’ll read a few more this year. If you see it around grab it and check it out, if you are anxious about ageing or experiencing some ageism touch base, I’d be happy to chat about it with anyone who is interested!
Keep reading, look after your elders and as always Just Be Nice.
- Josh Reid Jones
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports