Recently I read a book written in 64 BC by Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman orator, writer and statesman. The book, “De Senectute,” or “How to Grow Old,” was appreciated by Americans like Benjamin Franklin and President John Adams. Franklin was so impressed that he published an English translation of “How to Grow Old” in 1744.
Cicero said that growing old doesn’t have to be a multitude of disappointments and drudgery. In fact, it can be a time when we can live life to its fullest. My perspective on how to make the most of our grownup years is:
- Plan ahead carefully. Develop habits and interests that will become even more relevant as you get older. Don’t just expect the world to open up once you retire—chances are it won’t because it will have already passed you by.
- Embrace life happily. Lean toward happiness and positivity. Avoid curmudgeons and don’t be one yourself.
- Accept change gracefully. Youth is for the young and getting old is for the mature. With age comes experience and, we hope, wisdom. Share the gifts you have as you gain them through the stages of life and be grateful for what the young offer you. But don’t try to be young when you aren’t—being cool isn’t really cool.
- Use your body cautiously. Know your limits. While you can be physically active, you can’t be like you once were in the day. Expand into other areas that exercise the muscles of the mind.
- Be you uniquely. Look for worthwhile activities that will bring you joy in your later years. Take a cooking class or a course on English literature. Pursue your unique passions to express the unique person that you are.
Cicero ends with saying that you should know when to wrap it up and get off the stage. If you’ve lived a good life, planned for the end-game and accomplished enough and maybe a lot, be gracious as you open the way for others to take your place on the stage. It is humbling to hear a wise person talk about stepping aside for others. Yet doing so is a path that leads to peace of mind.
PATRICK J. WOOD