Tuesday, March 30, 2004

There was one interesting snatch of conversation I heard from my friends when I was in their office earlier today. They were talking about a common fear of being a living excess baggage at the age of 90-onwards. They'd rather go to the great beyond a great deal of years before that, 60+ being the ideal number. Old people are not useless. In a society that places a premium on families taking care of its aging citizens I think that kind of thinking is a little bit off-track. Of course, unless there are parents who are already inculcating such nonsense on the noggins of their kids. But wouldn't that be a form of societal suicide?

On the misconception that reaching retirement age is something to be feared because one could be deemed useless, I present a short list of senior citizens whose generous contributions to society changed the world in more ways than one:
Michelangelo Buonarroti designed St. Peter's Cupola when he was 83 and remained active until he was 89.*
Leonardo Da Vinci was well into his twilight years and he still continued working.
Benjamin Franklin was past 80 when he helped draft the constitution.
• Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was in his 80's when he wrote some of his classic legal opinions and he served well into his 90's.*
• Artist Pablo Picasso as well as cellist Pablo Casals were active into their 90's.*
Grandma Moses began her art career in her late 70's.*
Thomas Edison still continued on with various inventions before stopping at the age of 83 due to failing health (he has racked up 1,093rd patents).
• French painter, sculptor, and lithographer, Henri Matisse was also in his 80s when he turned to a new artform using brilliant paper cutouts and stencils that was as celebrated as his paintings.
Moses liberated the Israelites from the Egyptians at the age of 80.
Abraham was no pushover in his retirement age managing hundreds of workers in his care and becoming a first time father at the age of 100.
• Celebrated British statesman, author, military leader and strategist, painter, Knight of the British Crown, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Winston Churchill was almost 80 at the time but was still elected as Prime Minister.
* Source: Success in Old Age by Dr. Stanley Watson.

Who's to say one should stop doing what one enjoys at this age? Of course it's natural to feel inadequate after stopping all those years of bringing up kids and building a business, but those fears are unfounded. These people in the list were just ordinary citizens cited by their peers including those younger than them because they still believed that they can. I say continue on with serving your fellow man and if the Lord deems it time to call you home then at least you and the people you'll be leaving behind will be celebrating a life well spent.

Remember: "A comfortable old age is the reward of a well-spent youth. Instead of its bringing sad and melancholy prospects of decay, it would give us hopes of eternal youth in a better world." ~Maurice Chevalier

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