A wise man once told me “getting old is not for sissies” – well, actually it was my father, but he wasn’t wrong. While I’m happily a ways off from the Nurofen pocket pouch and Zimmer-frame just yet, the topic of advanced maturity has gotten a fair airing over the last few days, mainly due to Trinity’s Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
Regardless of when life begins, be it at 40 or whenever, its quality does peak at 68, according to the research, before winding down to 80. But the news that really got my circle agitated was an earlier Tilda study showing that three-quarters of people between 50 and 64 are still having sex on a regular basis.
Many a mate stared forlornly into his pint at such revelations, contemplating his own shortcomings in the rumpled quilt and contented smirk department. It all makes me recall a famous dictum of George Burns: “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”
While all of us may be on a path to the same pre-determined destination, it is the manner in which the journey is taken, rather than its conclusion, that makes us what we are.
As it happens, Robert Redford’s final film opens in Irish cinemas later this week – ‘The Old Man And The Gun’, the true-life tale of Forrest Tucker, a legendary American bank robber who plied his trade well into his 70s. At 82 himself, Redford clearly related to the role: “Tucker never stopped defying age, expectations or rules, making his twilight the pinnacle of his life of crime. The sole art form he knew was robbery, and he was darned if he wasn’t going to try to perfect it, no matter how elusive the dream.”
Known for cleverly planned heists completely devoid of violence, Tucker was the ultimate gentleman robber, always beaming a polite smile before absconding with the loot. Even amid the eccentric annals of famed American outlaws, he was an original, escaping from prison 18 times, and pulling his last heist at 78. The detective who finally caught him observed: “You had to hand it to Tucker – he had style.”
Age is a time to edit the wardrobe of our habits, and perhaps one of the first things we should discard on this road to advanced maturity is the inclination to care what other people think – an impediment all of us are inclined to stumble over at one point or another.
“The great thing about getting older is that you can see the good in things much more easily, rather than getting enraged as you used to do when you were young,” Maeve Binchy opined of the elderly state. “I think you’ve got to play the hand that you’re dealt and stop wishing for another.”
While studies and research are all well and good, what everything pretty much funnels down to in the end is the certain knowledge that old age is definitely better than the alternative – being dead. Cheers.