I don’t think my nine-year head start was the reason that my sister Ruth recommended I Love Growing Older, but I’ll Never Grow Old. The book is not just for those who have reached eligibility for AARP cards as you might suspect, but sets some helpful patterns to start early. After all, everybody is growing older, even if some of us do have a head start.
Author J. Ellsworth Kalas retired after thirty-eight years as a United Methodist pastor and has written more than thirty-five books. He makes the point in the first chapter of this book that growing older is a process while growing old is a conclusion and even claims that you’re at the best of all places in your life if you’re growing older while not growing old.
I’ll share a small taste from the other chapters in the book that give hints about practices that will make growing older without growing old work for you. Kalas sees a real advantage with reading as one gets older in being able to read what one wants to read rather than what one needs to read and claims that one will never be lonely if they love books. Explaining the increased tendency to forget names and details, he attributes it to data overload and rejects the idea of “senior moments” in favor of having added so much more information to the brain that retrieval takes longer. He claims our goal is not to remain young, but to grow up and thinks it strange that we spend so much time wondering if we’ll have enough money to survive but seldom ask ourselves if we’ll have enough spirit to keep going. He emphasizes the importance of managing our clocks, not to get more done but to pay attention to the things that are really important.
Older is a journey, he says, while old is a destination. For as long as this life lasts, one should be part of the journey. As I read, I couldn’t help but compare my two great-grandmothers who were lifelong friends and died within months of each other at the age of eighty-nine. Grandma Berry was old from my earliest memory, a grandmother to whom we made the obligatory visits and listened to her memories of better days and inquired about her health. I spent a delightful two weeks with the other, always called “Gram,” when I was thirteen and she was eighty-seven – but not yet old. I think one might start at any age using what I saw in Gram and what Kalas recommends in his book to enjoy growing older without growing old.