Why Do People Perceive Ageing Differently?

There is a saying, “Age is just a number.” True, in a way. And in line with this is the notion that every person has her/his own way of viewing the issue of getting old. In other words, it takes a subjective attitude to consider oneself either old or young. In this sense, ageing is taken as a matter of feeling. One may already be in his 60s but still feels like s/he’s in her/his 30s or even younger. Whereas, another may still be in his 20s but s/he feels s/he’s already in her/his 40s or even older.

There is a generally accepted view that a highly developed sense of humour contributes significantly to delay a person’s ageing process. By and large, people endowed with this quality have the common tendency to take life’s problems in stride, i.e., with a very positive attitude as they don’t allow themselves to be overcome and dragged by the weight of the problems. Rather, they look at them as challenges to their wit and automatically transform them into something that if perfectly uttered will deliver a message reflective of the speakers’ appreciated sense of humour. And commenting on their physical aspect, we say, they are younger than their age.

Corollary to this is those who look at life’s problems like a burden heavier than the planet Earth itself. These are people who tend to believe that they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. They may be young in chronological age but we could definitely say how their attitude has detrimentally affected their physical appearance. As we say it in simple terms, they are older than their age.

The different perceptions of ageing are precisely determined by our personal outlook in life. One’s generally negative outlook creates a personality that defeats openmindedness, flexibility, and creativity which are strong factors to make one feel great and fantastic. These, in reality, are strands that constitute the fabled “fountain of eternal youth” whose physical reality was sought after but never found in days gone by. So many explorers embarked on tortuous journeys just to get finally frustrated in their failure to physically locate this fountain which in reality is within us.

There’s no doubt that no one is getting any younger–unless s/he has the consanguineal strain of Peter Pan or Benjamin Button. We are all undergoing the physical process of deterioration though genetics contributes to its velocity as it runs more quickly in some while more slowly in others. In this connection, it has been widely observed that Asians get older more slowly than Caucasians in general. Whatever the case may be, the truth of the matter is, we are all getting old in terms of the number of years we have spent on the surface of planet Earth.

Finally, we get face to face with the reality of our mortality so that one day, the inevitability of death comes. To the more fortunate ones, it comes after living the fullness of a good life at an average old age of more or less 95 years. But of course, there are those who won’t be able to enjoy such longevity which is also a fact of life. Again, we could say that this matter is basically dependent on genetic factors and the manner how we have conducted our lives as well.

Considering the issue of how we’ve been conducting our lives in the present, there are moments when we couldn’t even feel we’re getting older. The more well off among us have even the tendency to enjoy the things that make them feel good unmindful of the consequences which in many instances are not contributory to leading a healthy life. The spirit of youth at its highest point of celebration aggressively controls the situation and pushes people to continually “paint the town red,” so to speak, as if there’s no tomorrow. Figuratively, we say, we stop the hands of time and enjoy the seeming eternity of youth.

But surely time will come when our feeling–which is, of course, subjective–will finally give in to the objectivity of the fact that we are actually getting old. And then we sit down exhausted in a corner with the eventual realization that age has taken its toll in our lives. At the end of the day, we are ultimately cognizant of the fact that we are not getting any younger anymore and this reality is irrevocable.

Yes, age doesn’t MATTER when we don’t MIND it. But MATTER does age, whether we MIND it or not.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 13 June 2019

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