The Privilege of Growing Old

Amy - Stockbridge, Georgia
Entered on March 9, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: change, respect
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I have always wanted to be old. Now, I know this sounds like a strange thing to aspire to, especially for a young person. But I truly think today’s society puts way too much emphasis on staying young. You have to wonder. . . what’s the point? At any given moment, the firm skin of a celebrity’s glowing, Botoxed face will appear on the side of a bus, and I just can’t help but laugh a little on the inside. The image is to be young and fun and beautiful. Being old is about as far from that image as a person can get. We live in a society centered around staying young for as long as possible, with our creams and dyes and injections and pills and supplements. Why is everyone so afraid of getting old, anyway? I have always admired people who are older than me. Age indicates experience, and I think every experience should help make us wiser in some way.

My love of old people comes from a deep respect for all they have been through in their lives. Thankfully, I have been fortunate enough to only know really nice old people, not the cranky ones you hear horror stories about. The one instance that comes to mind happened a few weeks ago at church. There was an older woman sitting next to me. A lady in the pew in front of us was trying to take her coat off, but she was having some trouble getting her arm out, so the woman next to me just reached up and helped her get it off, even though they were complete strangers. The lady turned around and they both smiled at each other, and I sat there thinking, “Huh. If that had been me, I don’t think I would have helped her.” And then I wondered why I wouldn’t have helped, and after a good five minutes I concluded that it was because I am just a kid. I was so impressed that the woman would, without a moment’s hesitation, lend a hand when she saw that someone needed help. I mean, helping someone get their coat off is probably no big deal, but it really struck me that day. It struck me because this woman was old enough to be my grandmother, and so were a lot of the people around me. Every single one of them met me and everyone around them with a smile. And then I realized why a lot of young people would be hesitant to help a stranger with something as simple as their coat: we are too self-conscious. It’s the same reason why our society has an obsession with staying young and beautiful. We worry too much of what others think of us. And that is why I believe in old age. Young people have too many pretenses holding us back. The old people have finally learned what’s important in life.