“Age Is Just A Number.” No, It Isn’t!

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Age is just a number.” Well, I’m here to say, “No, it isn’t.” Age is much more than a number. There are lots of things that come along with growing older, some of which are good, and some, not so much.
Author Philip Roth said that “Old age isn’t a battle; old age is a massacre.” Though I haven’t been massacred yet, I’m certainly in full retreat. I’m taking a bunch of pills each day to hold-off the relentless onslaught of health challenges. Recently, I had cataract eye surgery to improve my vision, a common procedure for the elderly. Regularly I wake up with new and unidentified aches and pains, and I find myself becoming more cautious about daily activities – using the stairs, driving, traveling, and putting more on my schedule than I can handle. I’m napping more and walking less. 10,000 steps a day? Not a chance!
In short, I’m totally unlike Moses who, the Bible says, “was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear and he was as strong as ever.” (Dt 34:7) If he was that healthy, you’ve got to wonder what he died from!
But, there’s another, more positive side to the “golden years.” Confucius said that “Old age is a good and pleasant thing. It is true that you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front seat as a spectator.” I like it.
Indeed, there are benefits from getting older. Co-workers don’t expect too much from you anymore and they’re more willing to excuse your mistakes and the embarrassing things you say and do. Having lived through the ups and downs of life, an older person has the advantage of perspective that leads to a measure of patience, calmness and peace. “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” asked Job, who had more than his share of disappointments in life. (Job 12:12)
In his weekly audiences, Pope Francis has given some wonderful reflections about the spiritual meaning of growing old. For example: “Old age is the phase of life most suited to spreading the joyful news that life is the initiation of a final fulfillment. And the best is yet to come.” Thank you, Holy Father, for putting a positive spin on such a challenging time.
Something to think about: Growing old is a combination of good and bad, but most of all, it’s a time to reflect with gratitude upon God’s providence and plan in our lives.