This aging thing stops right here, right now.
I’m turning 60.
I know, I know. By my generally dyspeptic attitude and hectoring tone you thought I was much older already.
But nope. Just 60. And by stopping the process I don’t mean cosmetically, sartorially or even, necessarily, physically. The body wears down. That’s nature’s way. I’m not going to become one of those spry seniors who competes in triathlons, takes fistfuls of vitamins, dresses like a 25-year-old and hires plastic surgeons to smooth over the ravages of time.
I’ll try to keep active, healthy and neat, of course. But mostly I’m talking here about putting a stop to the emotional process of aging -- to the hardening and narrowing of thought, the skepticism and technophobia, the world-weariness and complacency that often seem to afflict people as they get older.
So I’ve assembled a list of what I’m calling new-decade resolutions -- a set of 14 rules to try to live by so as not to become a certifiable codger.
1. Limit organ recitals. The term “organ recital,” one of my father’s favorites, refers to a long explanation of or conversation about aches and ailments, particularly of the chronic variety. Our maladies preoccupy us, naturally, but they tend to bore others and can come to define us if we’re not careful.
Unless circumstances are dire, the proper answer to “How are you?” is “Fine, thanks. You?”
2. Honor the creativity and idealism of youth. Yes, the whippersnappers are often naive and presumptuous with their half-baked and impractical notions. The box outside of which they’re thinking is there for a reason.
But innovation and progress usually come from minds flexible enough to challenge tradition and bold enough to question authority. Help shape new ideas rather than spit on them.
3. Stay curious. My 86-year-old father, referenced above, is my role model for many of these resolutions, but particularly this one. He still reads a lot, asks a lot of questions and listens well. Genuine curiosity -- about current events, business, sports, the lives of others and so on -- animates conversations.
An adage often attributed to Dale Carnegie says, “To be interesting, be interested.” It’s true at every age, but particularly at an advanced age when more of your time is spent talking than doing and the risk of being boring to others increases.
4. Don’t fight the wisdom of those who love you. They won’t take your car keys from you, make you wear medical-alert devices or move you into assisted living on a whim.
5. Keep your mind open. This means engaging with other points of view about politics and social issues, and entertaining the idea -- I know it’s crazy, but stay with me on this -- that maybe you’re not absolutely right about absolutely everything.
Don’t be like those who confuse rigidity with having strong principles.
6. Remember to smile. It will brighten your aspect and your voice, and serve as a corrective to the inevitable facial droop.
7. Embrace technology. Nearly every new electronic gadget is designed to be easy to use, and there’s no excuse for adults with adequate senses and faculties to plead confusion or helplessness at the opportunity to access devices and applications that can make life better.
8. Give pop culture a chance. Sure, a lot of it is ephemeral crap that deserves critical scorn, but that’s nothing new. If you’re my age, you came of age in the 1970s when the fashions, music and TV were appalling in retrospect. Today’s styles and entertainments have much more to offer, and they provide access points in conversations across generational divides.
9. Practice deaccession. Deaccessing is my dad’s favorite term for discarding and donating the accumulated household stuff you don’t need anymore and that your heirs aren’t going to want to deal with after you’re gone.
10. Don’t eat like you’re still 25. You’ll live longer and feel better.
11. Keep moving. Bum joints and weakening bones can contribute to the temptation to stay home and say no to opportunities and adventures. Whenever possible, power through. Atrophied bodies lead to atrophied minds.
12. Cultivate hobbies. They’re good for the brain and they can widen your social circle with like-minded people. Don’t think of making friends, think of finding them.
13. Get good hearing aids. When the time comes, do everyone a favor, set aside your vanity and give your ears the boost they’re going to need to keep you connected.
14. Don’t hide -- or hide behind -- your age. It’s at least partially a state of mind. Even as the years drag you down, don’t let them define you. Be grateful for, not resentful of, the number of days you have been granted.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to ring out the old and ring in the older.
By Eric Zorn
Eric Zorn is an op-ed columnist for the Chicago Tribune. -- Ed.
(The Chicago Tribune)