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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

Are we taking advantage of the new opportunities of senescence?

Wed, 13 Nov 2019 09:04:00 +0000 Published in Diario Vasco and El Ideal de Jaén

In the past, old age or senescence has been considered the 'downhill' stage, the stage of physical and psychological limitations that make it difficult or impossible to be an active person. The elderly were seen as a Chinese vase, as something so valuable and fragile that it was placed in a corner of the conference room for fear of breaking it. Worse would have been to see him as a vase. That sad fate is reserved for those who consider retirement as a total liberation from responsibilities and duties.

One retires from his professional work , but not from life; from living as a person, as a member of a family (father, grandfather), as a citizen, as a believer.... When our stage of 'homo faber' ends, we have the wonderful opportunity to recover two other dimensions of the human being that may have been in the background for many years: that of 'homo sapiens' and 'homo ludens'. We are not asked to return to the workshop or the office, but we are asked to make the most of our time and not to bury our talent.

It may help us to read a book that is a praise and a hymn to old age: the 'De Senectute' ('About old age') by Cicero, who sample Cato the Elder, a vigorous 84 year old man, conversing with two young disciples of his. Cato attributes the defects commonly attributed to age, to the individual himself, and not to old age itself. For Cicero "the old man cannot do what a young man does, but what he does is better".

The image of the elderly is improving lately due to the improvement in living conditions (the 65 years of now are the 50 of before). This allows them to act as young grandparents. For example, they take care of their grandchildren every afternoon when they return from high school so that they are not left alone in an empty house. They are "the children of the llavín", so called because their parents hang it around their necks so that they can enter the house when they have not yet returned from work. In this status, the grandparents are in charge of controlling the use of the television and the completion of homework.

In addition, they tell them stories related to the origin of the family and act as confidants.

The 'seniors' of today are no longer sleepy old men sitting in a rocking chair in front of the television; they are active people who go for long walks and/or bicycle rides, read books, collaborate with an NGO, etc. Some of them walk the Camino de Santiago carrying bulky backpacks. Such an active, healthy and healthy way of life is not improvised. I imagine that before reaching old age they took care of their health, played sports, kept their friendships and chose an activity that keeps their minds busy and creative.

But such a positive and prudent attitude is not common. It is essential to prepare for the last stage of life and to start when we are still active. Old age can become a joyful stage in which we can enjoy the fulfillment of our duties and the cultivation of our passions. Human and supernatural faith financial aid to look to the future, with the conviction that what is to come is better. The possibilities of old age are not limited to traveling, taking photographs and going out to dinner with friends; they also refer to the beginning of new projects. Each age makes it possible to sow in new lands to reap new harvests.

Life is like a bicycle ride: you have to keep pedaling to successfully reach goal. Whoever just revolves around himself is old, even if he is only a few years old. To avoid this, it is necessary to be always busy and active and to break with possible routines.

If professional activity is not replaced by some activities that continue to demand effort from our mind, the same thing will happen to intellectual capacity as to a physical limb in plaster: it will atrophy. Some recent research supported by the National high school on Aging assures that keeping our report active is the best weapon to prevent the loss of this human function.

"You do not grow old for having lived a certain issue number of years; you grow old for having deserted the ideal", said General MacArthur). Youth is not only a stage of the biopsychological development of the human being; it is also an attitude staff and a value that is outside of time, a timeless reality, a virtue without age.

Azorín maintained that to be old before one's time is almost nothing more than the loss of curiosity.