Turn­ing 70 - a time of sad­ness or one of hope?


RE­CENTLY I heard the same ques­tion be­ing asked of two fa­mous people - how did they feel on turn­ing seventy? Their replies were poles apart.

The first re­ply was full of re­sent­ment, bit­ter­ness and re­gret. Seventy was re­duced to be­ing the be­gin­ning of the end with no em­brace of the achieve­ment and no tri­umph at the land­mark. There ap­peared to be a dread of the jour­ney left to travel and a re­sent­ment of what had come to pass. It was a sad, hope­less kind of re­sponse and I couldn't help won­der if such a re­ply had its roots in a fear of the fu­ture or in a dis­ap­point­ment with the past.

The sec­ond re­ply could not have been more con­trary. Turn­ing 70 in this case was seen as a priv­i­lege - a priv­i­lege not af­forded to ev­ery­one. There was an ac­cep­tance here of time pass­ing, of mile­stones reached and of mark­ers con­quered. Yet, in­her­ent in the re­ply was an an­tic­i­pa­tion of what was yet to come and a move­ment for­ward from what was now past.

I recog­nise well this lat­ter ap­proach be­cause it is the one adopted by my own par­ents who them­selves are in their seven­ties. You see, I could never de­scribe my par­ents as old be­cause frankly they are not. Only re­cently they re­marked on how their seven­ties were turn­ing out to be their best decade yet.

Of course, they are not shy about us­ing the free travel; they like noth­ing bet­ter than to criss-cross the coun­try on a train to some­where and there isn't a mid-week ho­tel of­fer that hasn't at least been in­ves­ti­gated. And though, as their chil­dren, we have long since grown into ma­tu­rity, nev­er­the­less we look to them to par­ent us still. They may be en­joy­ing the priv­i­lege of 'old-age' but in truth the priv­i­lege is all ours.

Em­brac­ing old-age how­ever is not just con­fined to my par­ents. I was in­vited to join a writer's group re­cently in which the ma­jor­ity of the mem­bers are in their six­ties and seven­ties. I went ex­pect­ing a staid, quaint and po­lite bi-monthly gath­er­ing. I could not have been more wrong. Their writ­ings in­vari­ably in­spire deep thought and lively dis­cus­sion. Ev­ery ex­change is in­formed, ev­ery opin­ion life-flavoured and ev­ery ses­sion a les­son learned. Each time I go, I leave re­ju­ve­nated and more than a lit­tle in awe. An­other priv­i­lege, if you like.

Last weekend a lovely friend of mine passed away; far too young and far too soon. De­spite her vi­brancy, ad­ven­ture, quirk­i­ness and earth­i­ness, she was de­nied grow­ing old, re­main­ing for­ever young in­stead. Yet had she lived un­til a hun­dred, she is one of those people who would have al­ways stayed young. That was who she was.

Youth is a state of mind rather than a state­ment of time. Whether life is too short or too long, all told it's the only one we've got. And should I reach old-age, I will salute the priv­i­lege be­cause I think it the very least I can do for those who did not.”

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