Gift of long life brings responsibility

Who wants to be old? Nobody, probably.
In a society that values youth and disempowers age, the only sensible thing to want to be is young.
The problem, however, is that you don’t get to choose youth or age. You’re born at a certain time and from that point on you age.
At first, aging is viewed as good. “Growing up” we call it. And everyone wants to grow up.
Imagine being six and going to school like the rest of the kids. Or eight and getting on the neighborhood ball team. Or 16 and finally dating someone you’ve been noticing for a long time.
Or 18 and voting for the first time. Or 21 and becoming “fully legal.”
Then one day, you discover the growing up has ended and the growing old has begun.
Things change when you start growing old. Now you have to begin thinking about gray hair and glasses. About younger people pushing you aside in the workforce.
About changing from tennis to golf. And sometimes even about the end of life.
It’s impossible to imagine how fast time goes–30, 40, 50, 60, 70. Like a speedometer needle on a car, the years race by.
Youth leaves and age comes. No one likes it except for the wise man who said, “I feel pretty good about growing old when I think of the alternatives.”
It would have been easy to avoid growing old if we’d been born a century or two earlier. Just imagine, for example, that you had been born in the 1600s when life expectancy was 17 years.
You wouldn’t have seen your grandchildren grow up, or been able to take a four- or five-generation picture. And you probably wouldn’t have had a chance to plan for a creative block of retirement at the end of life.
When you think of the total history of the world, very few people have received the gift of long life. Even today, in many countries the masses die young.
Yet here we are, forgetting to be grateful. Taking long life for granted and even complaining about it.
I wonder sometimes how much we will be held responsible for that extra half or three-quarters of a century we’ve been given to live. If people in the 17th century only lived to age 20 or 30, and we live three or four times as long, are we four times as obligated to accomplish something with our lives?
The greatest gift anyone can be given is the gift of life itself. And a gift must never be taken lightly.
Think of your own life–of the opportunities that have come in an extra 40 or 50 years and what wisdom you have accumulated.
Only by thinking back will you realize how much you have learned and grown in the past half-century.
And only by thinking ahead will you realize what it is that you have to offer the world in return for the wonderful gift of long life.
So think about it today. What have you learned? What could you share? And how can you get started on it right now?
And always remember, the gift of long life brings responsibility.
Write Marie Snider at