Reflections on Age

You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.

George Burns

Friday night, I received a bit of a jolt when I went to get our mail. When I opened the mailbox, there was an envelope addressed to me from AARP with an indication on the front “Notification of Member Benefits.” According to the AARP website, “AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age.” In order to be eligible for AARP (which I believe stands for American Association of Retired People), you have to be 50 years of age. Early in December (the 8th if you want to mark it on your calendar), I will be turning 50; hence, the invitation to join AARP landed in my mailbox this week.

Age is a funny thing. When we are younger, we can’t wait to get older. Somewhere in our twenties or thirties, we are happy with our age. In our forties, we just wish things would slow down a little bit. And I’ve heard many in their fifties and beyond wishing they were younger again.

When I was in Minnesota just over a week ago to celebrate my Grandpa Miller’s life, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my parents. My dad, who just turned 75 this week, is no longer graying. His hair is pretty white now, and to be honest he looks more and more like my Grandpa Stolpe. My mom, who is 73, is experiencing the impact of Alzheimer’s. She needs more and more help to manage medication, to dress, and do other things that used to come so natural to her. It is humbling to realize I will be there age in 23-25 years, and I may have my own battles that come with aging.

My Grandpa Miller used to say he still felt like he was 18 years old – even into his early 80’s he would make this proclamation. As he moved more into his late 80’s and early 90’s, his comments changed a little bit. From his waist down, he felt like he was in his 90’s. Above his waist, he still felt like he was in his 20’s or 50’s depending on the day. I had the opportunity to see him in March in person and then again via Facetime in his final days, and it was clear to me that Grandpa was ready to hang up his cleats on his earthly life and continue on with Jesus in Heaven. Grandpa lived to 94 years old.

A couple of years ago, I listed to a book by Dan Sullivan called “My Plan for Living to 156.” After listening to this book, I began to tell people that I wanted to live to 129 years old. This would give me the opportunity to live in three different centuries. It seems kind of idealistic now that I think about it. After all, most people who live into their late 80’s and beyond deal with significant physical and cognitive impairments not to mention they frequently experience more loneliness as friends and loved ones face their own mortality. Watching Grandpa suffer the past few years has perhaps caused me to rethink the goal of living to 129.

As I approach my 50th birthday, I don’t want it to be a reason for sadness. While I may take time to reflect (like I’m doing right now), I want it to be an opportunity to celebrate what God has done in and through my life and what He plans for me in the future.

I recently listened to another book by Michael Clinton called “ROAR into the second half of your life (Before It’s Too Late).” In the book, he encourages readers to embrace their age and to celebrate and use the wisdom gained from age and experience. I shared this with my Dad the other day, and he too talked about the excitement and sense of peace he has at this stage of life. This is how I want to be. I don’t want to look back with regret. I don’t want to look forward with fear or anxiety. I want to embrace the present. I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to keep stretching. I want to keep learning. I want to make a difference.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to do a little more research to see about signing up for AARP.

They will still bear fruit in old age,they will stay fresh and green.

Psalm 92:14 (NIV)