First World War memorial

Changing the way we think about ageing

Our society is obsessed with age – and how to keep looking as young as possible. This week, with the nation observing the sacrifices made by soldiers in past conflicts as part of Remembrance Day, it is a fitting time to consider that growing old is a privilege.

We recognise men and women from all conflicts during Remembrance Day, but as this year being the centenary of the start of the First World War, the carnage has a special poignancy.

First World War memorial

Memorial to men lost in the Great War

I have always found this excerpt from the Ode of Remembrance particularly moving:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

So many of the losses were young men – many of them still boys – their lives ahead of them. They were denied the opportunity to get wrinkles, grey hair, develop aches and pains by a bullet, shell, or gas.

I remember fearing my 30th birthday – it felt so old! Of course, having reached the milestone I realised there was actually no difference. No, that’s not quite true: I think my thirties have been my best decade in terms of personal development, gaining confidence, and liking myself.

That said, I was keen to conceal the signs of ageing: I coloured my hair religiously every month to cover my grey roots, and fretted over lines that were appearing around my eyes.

This year has reinforced just how fortunate I am to be growing older. In February, I came close to never celebrating another birthday. For a time, while I was recovering in hospital, caring for my baby in the neonatal unit and then mourning his death, my personal appearance was at the bottom of my priorities.

Today, some seven months later, I have returned to taking a pride in my appearance, but I don’t obsess over it. I have more grey hair, but I colour it every eight weeks, rather than every month. So what if there is a bit of extra root growth. Despite using eye cream deeper lines have appeared around my eyes. Those lines are the result of now being closer to 40 than 30 – not to mention the amount of tears I have shed this year.

My son, Hugo, died when he was 35 days old. He will forever be a baby. Hugo will never grow up, celebrate a birthday, blow out candles on a birthday cake, go to school, or any other milestones.

To put it in perspective, grey hair and lined eyes are not the worst thing that can happen.

Grey roots and lined eyes - still smiling!

Grey roots and lined eyes – still smiling!

Ageing is a blessing, a privilege denied to so many, whether from conflict, illness, murder, accidents, or anything else.

There is beauty in ageing.

Perhaps we cannot be encouraged to go so far as to celebrate grey hair, lined eyes, achy joints, sagging boobs and all the other signs of ageing. I don’t think many of us actually enjoy those marks of life.

However, we should reconsider the way we think about ageing and realise how fortunate we are that we have lived long enough to have those things to moan about.

 

Linking up with Mum Turned Mom with the prompt word ‘age’

mumturnedmom

 

Post Comment Love

19 thoughts on “Changing the way we think about ageing

  1. Michelle Payne-Gale says:

    So true, Leigh! Well said. Still, you do realise you’re like a fine wine, right?! But I agree, it feels like our media-influenced society is obsessed with youth, smooth skin, slim waists and high butts (not to mention conflict and public humiliation!) when we should be celebrating each new day we get to wake up, and living our lives and loving our loved ones as fully as we can. So many are (or are close to) not having that opportunity anymore.

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  2. Victoria Welton says:

    What a lovely post Leigh. I have to say that I embrace my birthday every single year – it is another year I have lived and more yet to come, and I consider myself lucky. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo 🙂 x

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  3. Sara (@mumturnedmom) says:

    Such wise words Leigh, we should make the most of every moment. Growing older is a privilege not afforded to all, and we shouldn’t squander it worrying about a few lines. Great post, thank you so much for linking to #ThePrompt x

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  4. thenthefunbegan says:

    I think you’re so right that our society is obsessed with youth and perfection and that’s pretty much what makes us feel bad about getting older (other than actual aches and pains). ‘Age shall not weary them’ – true, and the one comfort for the loved ones left behind. X #theprompt

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Absolutely. Ageing is a part of life. I wouldn’t say ‘age shall not weary them’ is a comfort – it’s a stark reminder that the ones we have lost will not be able to live their lives as we are able to. xxx

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      • thenthefunbegan says:

        Well I guess there really is no true comfort but I was looking at it from the point of view of ‘weary’ being a negative thing and the writer saying ‘death is at least an escape from the negative aspects of this ageing experience’…

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      • Leigh Kendall says:

        Hmm is that a quote from the same poem Sam? I guess weary could be seen as negative, but I believe there is no ‘at least’ around bereavement – but we all have our different points of view xxx

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  5. Jane says:

    What a fantastic post, and your words are so true. My fear is leaving the ones I love, your words are telling me to rethink my fear. Enjoy the time we have together #ThePrompt x x x x

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