A few weeks ago I wrote a post in which I commented on several books that deal with getting older, retirement, and aging. If you did not read that post, or would like to review it, here is the link https://bobmmink.com/2016/07/13/getting-older-retirement-and-aging/ .
After I wrote that post I ordered a book highly recommended by R. Paul Stevens (author of Aging Matters). Written by Eugene C. Bianchi and originally published in 1982, the title Aging as a Spiritual Journey captured my attention. I would not say this book is better than either Stevens’ Aging Matters or Tournier’s Learn to Grow Old, but I did want to give a report on it as well as share a few salient quotes.
Aging as a Spiritual Journey has six chapters dealing with the two stages of midlife and elderhood. Chapter one is about the challenges of midlife, chapter two about the potentials of midlife, and chapter three discusses reflections from interviews about midlife. Chapter four is about the challenges of elderhood, chapter five about the potentials of elderhood, and chapter six discusses reflections from interviews about elderhood.
The author broadly defines midlife as the life span from about forty to sixty years of age and elderhood as beginning after age 60. Bianchi’s basic premise is that “middle and late adulthood present opportunities for combining the physical descent or gradual organic diminution with a spiritual ascent” (p. 7). At the age of 65 I don’t feel as though I have reached old age, but I think there is much for us to glean from his observations about both the challenges as well as potentials of midlife and elderhood no matter one’s current age.
I am not necessarily recommending you get and read the book, but I hope what follows will give readers something to think about. For those who are interested in this subject and the issues, this book, as well as the ones previously mentioned, all have a contribution to make.
Selected quotes from Aging as a Spiritual Journey by Eugene C. Bianchi:
“. . . the central issue of middle age is the loss of youth . . .”
“Too often in the aging process we settle for reminiscing rather than creating new memories.”
“For many persons in midlife, therefore, basic self-identity is called into question.”
“Those who cling to the dreams of youth against the reality of midlife tend to lull themselves into a life of illusion. . . . They miss, therefore, taking advantage of the unique opportunity that midlife offers for deeper growth.”
“It is important to consider the matter of flexibility, because midlife is also the time when many persons become more rigid in their attitudes.”
“Midlife transitions provide the opportunity to move intimate relationships and friendships to deeper levels.”
“For deeper spiritual development the aging need to confront their true feelings about their physical decline.”
“The sometimes unique problems of elderhood are also fraught with potential for growth in spiritual life.”
“For many persons, old age is a time for experiencing losses and diminishments that deep affect basic self-image.”
“Changes in economic and social structures significantly affect the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the elderly.”
“While everyone experiences some loneliness at any age, we do not give sufficient attention to the social factors that accentuate an especially acute loneliness for the old.”
“As grandparents, the elderly fulfill an important role for future generations. . . . In the best situations, grandparents become models for meeting life’s problems with grace, wisdom, and courage.”
“The mere state of being elderly confers no special wisdom or talent.”
“A primary task for older people is to divest themselves of negative stereotypes of what it means to be old.”
“. . . for the elderly self to sustain its dignity in a profound way, the issue of death must be faced.”
“. . . growth through diminishment, based on a willingness to encounter the inner demons of old age with faith, can lead to authentic joy even amid hardships.”
“A final task of elderhood consists of finding healing and forgiveness by reviewing one’s life and preparing proximately for death.”
Leave a reply or ask a question below and/or share this report on social media if you think others would benefit.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/86797572@N02/8727658387″>Steinhof: The Couple</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>