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Growing old...gracefully?

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While I am not certain what the term “aging gracefully” means, I can nonetheless say I don’t think such a thing is truly possible. It never has been and never will be.

Since humans first arrived on earth, our bodies have all been designed to last an indeterminate number of years before eventually giving out completely.

The aging process may not always be pretty or pleasant, but it has always been this way and there is very little anyone can do to change it.

So, with that much established, let’s attempt to examine this so-called concept of aging gracefully.

Hal Tarleton, my former editor at The Wilson Times, discussed reaching the 70-year-old plateau in a recent column.

In describing the aging process, Tarleton was right on the money as he touched on several areas to which most of us can relate, including the standard symptoms of aging like aching joints and muscles and forgetfulness.

To understand it better and help put aging into perspective, take your current age now and try to recall how you perceived someone being that age when you were about 10 years old.

I can’t recall exactly when it kicks in, but there comes a time in everyone’s life when we all begin to read the obituaries in the newspaper with more interest.

This practice serves two main purposes as the information gained not only tells us how many funerals of friends or relatives we might be able to attend over the coming days, but it also makes us feel slightly better if the person named in a particular obituary is younger than we are.

The age thing is also heavily tied to bragging rights during our lifetime designed to impress and make everyone, especially our friends, more envious of us — at least that’s what we believe.

At age 6-12 it’s about who has the best toys, best computer games, best cellphone or is the fastest runner.

As we get into our teens, it’s all about best boyfriend/girlfriend, car, hairstyle, clothes, etc.

As young adults, it becomes who has the best spouse, job, car or home.

With more years added, the bragging points tend to change slightly and include having the most/smartest grandchildren, most/worst medical ailments like heart attacks or surgeries or most expensive hospital bills.

Sometimes the bragging points tend to get strange.

For example, my father-in-law, who recently died at age 92, bragged for years about having 17 colonoscopies during his lifetime. Wow!

Without us realizing it, the hoarding concept also tends to come into play for us more often as the years accumulate.

After my mother died about 10 years ago, while going through her effects we found hundreds of freebie goodies like notepads, keychains, yardsticks, flyswatters, calendars, brochures, drink coasters and emery boards she had apparently gathered when attending events for seniors.

Just wondering — How many emery boards does one require during a lifetime?

The best advice I have found on aging comes from the mind of late comedian, social critic and author George Carlin (1937-2008), who was not only noted for his insightful thoughts on just about everything but was also an extremely funny person.

If George were alive today, I feel sure he would approve of us borrowing excerpts from his books “Brain Droppings,” “Napalm and Silly Putty” and “When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?” for this column.

Carlin said the only time in our lives we want to get older is when we’re kids and get so excited we start thinking in fractions.

“How old are you?’”

“I’m 4 ½, I’m gonna be 5.”

Carlin said you rarely hear someone say something like “I’m 48 ½, I’ll be 49.”

Carlin further explained it all by writing, “during your lifetime you Become 21, Turn 30 (makes you sound like bad milk that needs to be thrown out), Push 40, Reach 50 (all big dreams are gone by now), Make it to 60 and by this time have built up so much speed you Hit 70.”

Included among Carlin’s advice tips on how to stay young was to throw all out non-essential numbers like age, weight and height, keep only cheerful friends, keep learning, enjoy the simple things and laugh often, long and loud.

Also, he added, when the tears occur, try to endure, grieve and move on and try to live life to its fullest each day.

Keith Barnes is a reporter and columnist for the Johnstonian News. Email him at