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Is becoming old a physical process? Or a mental one?

Remember this scene from the Simpsons cartoon?

Grandpa Simpson, begins reminiscing about the past with the expression “In my day…” and then moments later, his head falls back, mouth hangs open, drool spills out and he falls asleep mid sentence.

I tried to find a clip on YouTube, but there doesn’t seem to be one available, even though I think its one of his funniest moments. Grandpa Simpson is a caricature of a grumpy old man who is trying to make sense of the modern world and his strange family.

“In my Day”

At what point, does it start happening to us. That urge to start using that expression ‘In my day’. I wonder if it begins when we start to feel that all modern music is inferior. The same with movies, fashion, cars or even people.

If you find yourself thinking that something was better ‘in my day’. Theres already a chance it has started. You are becoming old. You are becoming Grandpa Simpson.

The antidote

I think the antidote is to stay relatively open-minded, and keep an impartial interest in new trends, styles, books and fashions. You do not need to adopt them. You should keep your own identity and your own preferences. I don’t think a hipster beard would suit me. But I’m not against them. I think its interesting that this has become the current fashion and I’m curious how these young men are able to grow such a big beard. I don’t think I am able.

When I was younger, there was a trend towards long head hair. I did have that at one point. But I don’t see so many people with that these days. It doesn’t bother me either way.

Musicians who reinvented themselves by keeping a young mind

I can think of an example of keeping up with changes in David Bowie. He had been famous for decades. Obviously his best hits are from the 70s and 80s, but he was always re-inventing himself.

In the late 90s, he went through his kind of drum and bass phase. I was fortunate to be able to attend his concert in Birmingham, UK. It was great being able to see him, although it would have been great if he could have played some of his old songs. He didn’t. Only his new album.

But there you go, that was his way of not saying ‘in my day’. He wanted to stay current and up-to-date. I think Madonna is the same.

Staying curious and open to new things is related to ageing. Some people became set in their ways and ‘become old’ at a certain age. They no longer care about new things and it is at that point, that you could arguably say, they became old. The word to emphasis is ‘became’. Age is a mental thing just as much as a physical thing. But it could arguably be called a state. You can have an ‘old’ state of mind just as much as you can have an ‘old’ state of body.

Retirement 

There have been various statistics of people dying just a few years after retiring. It’s as though, once a person retires, they mentally tell themselves that they are old and everything that one associates with being old – ideas of reduced strength, degeneration, disease and even death, then becomes a reality.

There’s real little physical difference between age 65 and 66, so why should some people suddenly move closer to becoming older and closer to death in that period? In fact, these days at age 65, a lot of people are still in good health and have many years of work left in them.

Elderly acupuncturists in Japan

There are some acupuncturists in Japan still working, lecturing and travelling in their 70s and 80s. I saw a few of them last year. Even my father still works in his 80s a manual labour job. Potentially a person at 65 could have another good 10 productive years of their life left. There’s a lot you can do in ten years.

However, this does depend on certain factors. At age 65, if you have spent your life eating excessively, sitting excessively and indulging heavily in various ‘bad’ habits and you have a body that reflects those lifestyle changes, then yes, at age 65, you may indeed be old.

Maintaining good condition

At age 65, though the body may still have the potential of several more productive years, if you have not looked after it well, this potential is reduced. And without the discipline and stimulation of work, then it may start to deteriorate more quickly, hence you die shortly after retirement. Fortunately, there are steps to reduce this.

So in this case, it is not just about keeping a young mental state, but also keeping active and watching your eating and other habits. Look at Jack Lalanne for an extreme example.

You can’t live forever, know thy limitations

You can’t live forever. You will get older, and the body physically begins to slow down. That is fact and no amount of positive thinking or law of attraction is going to make your body become like a teenager again. So the lesson there is to accept, adapt and work with the limitations and restrictions of your body at its different stages.

As Clint Eastwood says in the movie Magnum Force: ‘a man’s just got to know his limitations’. The challenge is also not to yearn for the past or to feel sorry about ageing. But to accept it and appreciate things as they come. Again its a mental and internal process.

Exercise and new projects

When thinking about ageing, it is a good time to consider the practice of the soft internal Oriental arts. Things like Tai Chi and Qigong are very helpful for arthritis, the immune system, even the mood. It is also a gentle way of getting exercise. Swimming, yoga and also walking are good.

There is no reason not to start a new hobby or even business at any time in your life, though the amount of time and energy you can put into it is limited, it doesn’t matter. It will have the effect of keeping you young. To give an example, my father just before he reached 80 took out a patent on a gardening invention he came up with. If you have skills, experience or knowledge from your life, there is a real need for that to be passed on to the next generation, because frankly, in the West, we’re lacking that handover of knowledge and training.

Inner work

It is also traditionally the time to do more inner work, to connect with your spiritually. To take meditative practice deeper. Old age is the most yin part of a person’s life. It is the time to build a greater connection with the greater yin of the universe. Yin practice at a yin age.

Hope I die before I get old

I would have to advise against this current idea of partying the later years and spending the kids inheritance. This old ‘I hope I die before I get old’ mentality. This is a yang approach in a fundamental yin time. We are all still part of a generational cycle with obligations to those ahead of us as well as those behind us even if they may never know them.

I wonder how a person can say ‘Well, I’ve worked hard my whole life, now I’m going to enjoy it all for myself’, with constant dinner-partying, new cars, cruising, holidaying, whilst their adult children struggle alone to raise their own kids in time of stagnant wages, rising inflation, high nursery costs, high rents and unaffordable housing. I think there is some karma coming in these situations. There are some families like this.

Keep a youthful interest in the world

But going back. The next time you feel the urge to criticise the music your children are listening to, and to say: ‘in my day’, just imagine yourself with your head hung backward, your mouth hanging open, drool dripping out and yourself falling asleep mid sentence. Then you may want to reconsider that.
Instead, it may be time to explore what’s hip at the moment with young people. A simple YouTube search can bring things up. For example, I’ve recently been watching the PewDiePie videos and laughing at his humour. You don’t have to like whatever you find. Just be curious.
It might just add ten years to your life.


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YouTube Video: How NOT to get OLD

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