It’s hard to think of more useless advice but I’ve heard this little nugget my entire life. “Don’t get old.” The response is of course, “What are my options? I can grow old or die young.”
We all know the intent. The loss of health and independence along with an increase in fear and loneliness can tarnish the so-called “golden” years. Few people desire becoming frail but even fewer desire dying before getting there.
Mary Willis Shelburne was a longtime correspondent of C. S. Lewis. Educated at the Chatham Episcopal Institute, and Woman’s College (now Westhampton College, Richmond), she was a poet, translator, editor, and proofreader.
In January 1962 Ms. Shelburne shared with Lewis challenges brought on by age. As he read her letter Lewis himself was 64 years old and suffering a number of his own health problems. In less than a year he would be dead.
In seeking to express his sympathy as well as give wise counsel he writes,
“I am distressed by all you tell me. Alas! Advances in hygiene have made most of us live longer but other things have made old age harsher than it ever was before. It is a pity that the old usually dislike one another. In your position I myself would prefer a ‘Home’—or almost anything—to solitude.”1
Options for the elderly are typically few. As with all of us, not growing older is definitely not one of them.
“Keep your Creator in mind while you are young! In years to come, you will be burdened down with troubles and say, ‘I don’t enjoy life anymore.'” – Ecclesiastes 12:1, Contemporary English Version.
1. Walter Hooper, ed., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963, Vol. III (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 1312.