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To a school of fish, a flock of birds, a nest of vipers, I choose to add ‘a regret of old-age.’

There is absolutely no point — no practical point — in the inevitability of ageing. It is far better avoided. At all costs. Look at the world population: a significant proportion of people are old, despite the fact that recent trends suggest old age occurs later and later. I remember when my father retired at the age of sixty-five, he had already been old for at least five years. In life, he got perilously close to ninety.

See all these old people. They can be discovered world-wide. They get everywhere. No country, no culture, no tribe, no nation is unique in this. Look at them; weighed down with all the wisdom of the world, and frequently too frail to make use of it. Perceive and understand; how their knee-joints and hips creak and moan at the weight of all their accumulated faults and errors, life mistakes and the wearying of cell and sinew. Yet even in their hearts they retain unbounded joy at remembered triumphs and successes, and at the possibility of further triumphs and successes still to come.

The persistent trouble with old-age is that it gives individual the right length of service to enable them to catch up on all sorts of incurable conditions. The 30/40/50 year old diabetic can seem invincible, can appear to waltz through life maintaining work, house, family. As the condition progresses, more and more bits of life drop-off the score-board. Unless well-managed by the individual, diabetes progressively leads to kidney failure, circulation difficulties, damage to the retina and even in extreme cases but with increasing regularity, amputation. 

Therefore beware the young, the middle aged and the old-age deniers, diabetes can be measured and accounted for, while the loss of mind cannot. This is the greatest offence old-age commits. Mindlessness. Or mindfulness, obscured by a patina of old-age, hiding the memories held within inaccessible grey cells.

So, the elderly progress, (if it can be called progress), towards coping strategies. When one knee becomes an irritant, it remains possible to ascend stairs one step and one leg at a time. Watch this writer going up to bed. The subsequent strategy, ascending stairs when both knees go walkabout, remains to be invented. When knees, hips and back conspire together to make putting on socks difficult, it may be necessary for a third person to learn a new multi-tasking skill. The even greater problem is donning underpants/knickers/trousers, which may be why so many elderly can be seen wearing things like pyjamas and track-suits.

It is quite normal for slim young men to grow into quite corpulent older men and still try to wear the same sized-waist trousers the young man wore. Such self-deception can be discerned in the marks around the waist and the painful over-hang around the belt line. There was a time when sensible older men wore trousers several sizes too large with braces rather than belts. It is now understood what puzzled as a child. My former primary school headteacher, a gentle and affable, loving and caring individual always appeared to be wearing trousers that were very baggy at the waist. His heavy-weight braces were always very obvious, too.

There are messy bits to ageing, messy bits best not discussed in polite society, messy bits which are very personal to the individual. As long as one eats, drinks and has instincts such as desire, then there are consequences. Frequently messy consequences. A discreet veil is best drawn across the details.

The QED of all this, is that once born, each of us should avoid ageing for as long as possible. In so many instances, young people are impatient to grow up, go to the pub, learn to drive, be sexually active and fulfilled, be a social being, a parent, a labourer in the field of gainful employment. Be aware: being grown-up, mature, holding all the knowledge and experience of the world in your hand, is not always what it is cracked up to be.

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