The American Association of Retired Persons estimates baby boomers and seniors are 78- million strong and growing at the rate of one every 8 seconds. Representing nearly 50 percent of consumer spending, we "older Americans" represent a vital and influential force.
It's an interesting concept – aging – one that Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, addressed head on in her writings. And she was quite an expert in maintaining her relevance and vigor. She founded the Monitor when she was nearly 90 years old.
Here's how she viewed aging: "Never record ages. Chronological data are no part of the vast forever. Time-tables of birth and death are so many conspiracies against manhood and womanhood. Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise. Man, governed by immortal Mind, is always beautiful and grand. Each succeeding year unfolds wisdom, beauty, and holiness" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 246).
I found this statement arresting when I began to face evidence of aging and fears associated with it. Fear of slowing down mentally and physically, fear of becoming irrelevant, fear of lapsing into ugliness.
When I thought about how Mrs. Eddy addressed this issue, I noticed that the first order of business was to do away with thinking of ourselves as "aging" at all. She said, "Never record ages." How can this be done?
To do this, I began in Genesis 1, where I've learned that God made me in His image and likeness. I asked myself, Does God age? That possibility seemed ridiculous. But if God can't age, what about my genuine, God-derived individuality, made in His image and likeness? Though the material picture of me contradicts this God-created identity, fundamentally, I saw that I must be as "ageless" as God is.
This idea was quite liberating. As I thought more deeply about it, I saw it meant I didn't have to experience all those aches and pains, the general "slowing down" associated with aging. I didn't have to feel that I was going from vitality and productivity into listlessness and uselessness. I could focus my attention elsewhere – to the "me" that God, my divine Parent, had made.
As I accepted this better vision of myself – one not dependent upon physicality, but on what God knows of me – interesting ideas occurred to me. And this refreshed concept offered new views of what I might accomplish as well.
For example, I took up running – something I hadn't done in many years. And, surprisingly, I've found that I am running farther and with more comfort now than I did 20 years ago. I do push-ups, too! That's something I wouldn't have attempted decades ago.
The other ideas in Mrs. Eddy's statement about our eternal, undiminishing nature – that we can expect to be beautiful, grand, wise, and holy – are also wonderful things to look forward to.
Think about that word "grand." Many of us attach "children" to that, and what a wonderful gift that is. But that word also means regal, magnificent, comprehensive, imposing, striking in scope. These are qualities to cherish. Understanding that they are actually within us to be developed can enable us to go forward, holding this vision of ourselves before our thought – one in which we are God's loved image, cherished and ever evolving, not aging into incapacitation.
And who wouldn't look forward to a future filled with beauty, wisdom, and interesting activities we've just begun to glimpse?
And the Lord
shall guide thee continually,
and satisfy thy soul in drought,
and make fat thy bones:
and thou shalt be
like a watered garden,
and like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not.