Growing older has its advantages

Published on Winchester Sun, August 15, 2019

Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world — and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!”

This charming quote — and variations of it — have been attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and others. Whoever said it was onto something.

My youth is now so far behind in my rearview mirror that I can hardly see it. I’m pushing 60, so while I don’t necessarily regard myself as “old” quite yet, my senior years are now coming clearly into view on the road ahead.

The next significant event in my life is likely to be my retirement. Pondering such matters tends to lead to a great deal of self-reflection.

It was while reflecting on this I noticed a meme shared by a friend on Facebook:

The best part about getting older is … nothing! Getting older sucks.”

I had to chuckle as I thought about all the aches and pains and weird things happening to my body lately. But as I mused some more, I realized that getting older isn’t so bad after all.

So I resolved to make a list of all the good things that happen along with aging.

At the top of my list is for every day I age, that’s another day I am still kicking. That’s nothing to take for granted. I have already lost a few childhood friends who passed on far too young. I try to remember that as I savor each new day.

Along with advancing age comes perspective. I’m learning not to sweat the small stuff. My wife would tell you I still need to work on that some more, but I believe I’m making progress. At a certain age, one begins to recognize that many of the things that caused anxiety in earlier times are not worth worrying about.

On the other hand, I can be even more obsessive about certain things. Such as keeping my garage and workshop perfectly organized, or the lawn just so. In other words, “old man stuff.”

Also along with age comes wisdom — hopefully. It’s a relatively universal human trait that as small children, we assume our parents know everything. As teenagers, we decide that our parents have inexplicably become ignorant about pretty much everything. Then as we mature into young adults, we start to value the wisdom of our parents. I like to think I have arrived at the point where my children value my life lessons.

I’m starting to notice how many retail establishments offer senior discounts. I’m not quite eligible for most of them, but that will come soon enough. Something to look forward to.

Then there is the joy of watching my sons grow into responsible and caring adults. This has been one of my life’s greatest blessings. It’s probably difficult to understand if you don’t have that experience, but seeing one’s offspring learning to “adult,” as they say, is an incredibly satisfying adventure.

Similar to that is the privilege of helping to raise our grandson. It’s a bit like reliving the childhoods of our sons but through the lens of older and wiser eyes. And we get to spoil him and send him back home to repay his dad for what he put us through. (That’s a joke.)

Each year seems to bring me closer to being completely comfortable in my own skin. The anxieties and insecurities of youth — being concerned about how others see me — are quickly vanishing. I am who I am — if you like me, that’s great. If you don’t like me, no worries. I’m still OK with myself.

Here are a few more I’d like to mention:

— If I want to ignore you, I can pretend I can’t hear you.

— I get to blame my quirks and eccentricities on being old.

— If I’m in public and appear to be struggling with something, a young person will generally come to my rescue.

— Young ladies have started to call me “honey” and “sweetie.” I like that. My wife says it’s because I remind them of their grandfathers. I don’t mind that. At least they aren’t ignoring me.

Final thought: I know that aging isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. But I firmly believe we are happiest when we choose to dwell on the positives in any situation.

Or as my dad once remarked, “Growing old is a pain, but it beats dying young.”

Pete Koutoulas is an IT professional working in Lexington. He and his wife have resided in Winchester since 2015. Pete can be reached at pete@koutoulas.me or follow him on Twitter @PeteKoutoulas.

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