The Choice is Yours

Sukhendu Roy Chowdhury

The Call Beyond
15 Jul 2020

It is not the number of years you have lived that makes you grow old. You become old when you stop progressing. … … I have known old people of 20 years of age and young ones of 70. The Mother

A long and healthy life is a blessing. It becomes a double blessing when the person becomes useful to others. Generally, from age 70 onwards, the energy levels decline perceptibly and steadily, and paradoxically, our demands may multiply, likes and dislikes magnify, level of tolerance plummets and mood swings become frequent. The person may feel unwanted everywhere except in a nursing home where he is seen as a money-bag.

But old age need not be so bad. It all depends on how much you make yourself useful to others. The best solution is to be selfless, to talk less, and to be generous with both love and money. However, everybody is not equally lucky, and many may not be healthy and wealthy enough for doing what can make old age comfortable and happy. Broadly speaking, there are at least four types of circumstances one may find oneself in, or choose for oneself, in old age.

First, you have earned enough money to be economically independent, and can depend on family or hired help for physical support. That may secure care, but cannot guarantee loving care.

The second option is to join an old age home or some other similar organization which is geared for taking care of a large number of old people in the community. Besides physical care, the person gets there also the company of one’s own age group. One can develop a new family in such a setting, provided the person is friendly, accommodating, and loving.

The third option is to live the life of a recluse, detach oneself from family and friends and live a secluded life in a spiritual organization, balancing outer work (selfless service) with inner work (study, meditation, and inner churning).

The fourth option is to realise that there is no well-defined set of circumstances that are ideal. The important thing is to focus on one’s spiritual growth rather than the circumstances. Spiritual growth is possible in all circumstances. Spiritual growth has a few pre-requisites that are essentially in the person’s own hands. The first is to cultivate love, and to express that love. The essence of love is to give what one has to those who need it. Such opportunities are easily found if one just looks around. Second, to be grateful for one’s blessings. Third, to be vigilant not to give in to one’s weaknesses and negativities. Fourth, to acknowledge that our life is in the hands of the Divine, who is all-knowing and all-powerful. The ways of the Divine we may not understand, but one can always surrender to the Divine. An unquestioning surrender to the Will and Wisdom of the Divine is an infallible prescription for lasting mental peace. Further, surrender is not a feel-good formula; it is an attitude that is rooted in the deepest truths of existence. With these attitudes the person becomes, irrespective of circumstances, like a flower that spreads fragrance, and the person’s life turns beautiful.

When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.

— Victor Hug