WHILE wine is prized for aging well, even auctioned off based on its vintage year, humans have a mixed attitude towards adding years to their lives. Do old folks even reveal in an expensive steak place that they are celebrating a birthday? What if the waiters break out into song and bring in a saucer-sized cake with one small candle lit? Sir, you’re breathing heavily, just use your fingers to put out the light.
Prophets of doom warn about the demographics of an aging population, and the expensive care ecosystem that goes with it. It is said that by 2050, 21% of the world’s population will be over 60. I don’t think we can check out those forecasts.
It takes little effort to get old, not even counting being sprightly getting there. Nature does all the work as far as aging and its effects are concerned. The increasing number of blemishes in the face, baldness, nose hairs peeking out, loose folds under the arm that do the shimmy when hailing a taxicab, and the use of a walking stick or motorized wheelchair are daily reminders of one’s state.
A whole marketing barrage promotes the prospect of making one look younger with a bit of nipping and tucking; injections and suctions; and scraping and plucking. The patient can look so different that even friends won’t recognize him. Is he selling tickets? — Sorry, Sir, I already saw Turandot.
Still, makeovers deal only with physical changes. A woman may strive to look like her husband’s mistress. Then the confused husband might slip and ask: who will be doing the chandelier swing this time and when is it time for the wheelbarrow? Then it’s his face that may need a makeover — just surface scratches, Doc. Lots of stray cats.
The irony of looking younger is that friends already know your approximate age from who your classmates were. Sure, “after the treatment” you look different, like a descendant of Genghis Khan with your slit eyes from the facial stretches tucked behind the ears. (The moustache has started growing.) Still, the new look invites the obligatory comment — you look years younger, almost like a fetus.
An old person (let’s say past 65) even without a diagnosed serious ailment, can seldom be described as in the pink of health. There are complaints of occasional aches and pains at different times of the day, perhaps droopy eyes or a hand shake (yes, that’s two words). Still, it is possible to be old and still look useful. Behold the former administrator of martial rule 50 years ago who can still spout passages of the law without drooling, as he turns a hundred in a few months.
One rule for being old and not looking too frightful is simple. Tasteful and classic attire (which now includes bespoke jeans) make old age look gracious, even dignified. And some even choose to have naturally white hair that goes well with the color of their eyebrows.
What about being accompanied by a granddaughter to push the wheelbarrow? Are caregivers upping their game? Lacking youth and looks, the only explanation for a young female’s attachment to an old person is seldom a mystery. What about wisdom? Does wealth trump quotations from Marcus Aurelius in Latin? Next question, please.
To look old gracefully, one must project gravitas — the first of four Roman ideals usually attached to the old and powerful (the Roman senate, after all, was composed of old men). The other three are dignitas, pietas, and virtus. The last two refer to tradition, ethical behavior, and proper religious observance. Okay, gravitas is earned. It’s about being taken seriously by younger people.
Maybe you take naps during the presentation of focus group discussions. (Why do they have to dim the lights anyway for power point presentations?) But as soon as you snap awake, you say something profound about the glut in the inventory of property as well as the rise of a new middle class from the remittance economy. As for revenge spending, that is mostly for consumables. Sure, these comments may be irrelevant to what just transpired, but most colleagues will let them pass. Seneca strikes again. Those a bit younger prefer Yoda. Is he truly old, or does he just have long ears?
It’s great getting old… especially when you think of the alternative.
Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda