The author as a younger man

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

(Psalm 90)

Another milestone reached. If I’m lucky, according to Psalm 90, I might get another ten years of labour and sorrow. How depressing.

To make matters worse, having been born just days before the end of the nineteen-forties, on New Year’s Day I’ll be entering my ninth decade.

It’s certainly no lark getting old. It requires counting out various pills each morning, trying to remember if the blue ones are for the morning, the evening or both. It means planning journeys around available toilet stops. It involves desperately trying to remember the names of things (especially friends) and coping with the frustration of slowing memory recall.

And to make matters worse, I still feel as though I’m in my prime, even though my body doesn’t. As an active bird enthusiast, I’m sure I can still climb trees to look into nests, or carry lots of equipment around in bogs and through hedges (yes, often backwards). However, I’ve learned that if I do, I will feel the effects pretty quickly, and realise that I’m not as strong as I used to be – not a good thing to discover when you are using just one hand to hold on up a tree.

Doubtless you’ll have heard the Dylan Thomas poem:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Most people assume this is about death, but I think it’s actually about old age. It exhorts the listener not to give in to senility and decrepitude, but fight against it. It’s all too easy to get to old age and say, “I can’t do that, I’m too old,” or perhaps “I should be taking it easy at my age.” Why? Recovery from exertion may be longer with age, but provided silly risks aren’t taken, there’s plenty of evidence that exercise is good for the elderly. Should I just assume I can’t carry on ticking off my life bucket list in case I overexert myself? I want to use my hard-fought-for experience positively, supporting local societies and charities until I become a charitable cause myself.

No, dammit. I’m going to rage against the dying of the light. I want to see and do lots more before I am cut off and fly away.

Threescore years and ten

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