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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/3/18

Aging, a Problem or an Opportunity?

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Message Reza varjavand
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No one wants to get old. We routinely resort to every possible tactic to postpone old age or to camouflage its appearance. Throughout history, we have relentlessly searched for fountain of youth and the mystical concoction that helps us to live longer but to no avail. Pharmaceutical companies have also jumped onto the bandwagon and have invested heavily in drugs designed to enhance our physical or mental strength and bequeath us with longevity. In the United States and other rich countries, our quest to cheat death and conceal the physical evidence of our aging have created a big industry manufacturing and selling age-related products.

We follow strict diet programs, and try to eat our daily requirement of fruits, fruits, fibers, and vegetables as recommended by nutrition experts. We exercise on a regular basis and do our part to put money into the coffers of gyms, health clubs, and personal trainers. We take our daily vitamins and food supplements, often out of a bottle, just to be on the safe side in case we may not have "hit the mark" with our healthy diet regimen. We avoid engaging in risky activities that could put our life and limbs in jeopardy, and we almost religiously try not to miss our preventive medical check-ups.

When we get older, we do even silly things to pretend to ourselves and others that we are still young, attractive, energetic and virile. We dye our graying and thinning hair, or purchase wigs and toupees if we don't have enough hair to dye. We dress in colorful clothes hoping these will distract from the pallor of our aging skin, and we choose youthful styles that at times reveal parts of our bodies that most people would rather not see. We replace our missing teeth with denture or implants or spend money on teeth-whitening procedures. We try to reconstruct the badly depreciated components of our body parts through plastic surgery, implants, and copious injections of Botox. Some of us drive racy sports cars often in bright eye-catching colors with modern electronic gadgets you never learn how to use. In short, we do everything at our disposal to either hide or postpone the degrading implications and manifestations of old age. We may successfully simulate a more youthful appearance and fool ourselves for a few additional years, but all of our efforts certainly fail to return genuine youthful vitality to our bodies and sharp mental acuity to our minds and memory.

When it comes to life-prolonging strategies, no single one alone works magically. There is a variety of them, diet, red wine, chocolate, vitamins, exercise, stress-reduction techniques, and etc. However, even all such measures enable us to live a few extra years, is that necessarily worth it. We still don't know whether a prolonged life means a happier or a more fulfilling life. I don't think so. How many times you wished that a terminally-ill friend or relative a dignifying death in peace to end his/her suffering and painful misery? Being old is no doubt an opportunity, but it may as well be a problem. I don't believe that there is a reasonable correlation between the length of our life and the quality of our living. In other words, a happy life does not depend on how long we live. It really comes down to the cliche', the simple but profound cliche', "Life (whether long or short) is what you make it."

Age is not a distinguishing factor when it comes to being a miserable human being; you can choose to be unhappy no matter what your age. No one and no thing can make a person miserable; we make ourselves miserable by how we view the life that has been given to us. The persons and events of our lives can be seen as either a blessing or a curse. Whichever one we decide upon will shape who and how we are as a human being, and our life will become a blessing or a curse for others

No questions that many good things come with the old age like wisdom, patience, creativity, and slow but better decision-making ability. They, of course, come at a cost, the vulgarities of physical frailty. I can't imagine living with debilitating joints pain and dementia in particular, not recognizing my wife every time I wake up in the morning. Nonetheless, old age should not be viewed as the catalyst to demise. What is important is building positive attitudes about our age and living the way that there is no tomorrow.

To end on a lighter note, the only people who regret your longer life are those ill-intentioned investors in the viatical industry who bet on your death. They have to keep paying the monthly installments as long as you live for exchange of ownership of your life insurance upon your passing. I bet they pray every day that you die as soon as possible so they stop paying and cash in your life insurance.
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Reza Varjavand (Ph.D., University of Oklahoma) is associate professor of economics and finance at the Graham School of management, Saint Xavier University, of Chicago. He has been an avid participant in many professional organizations and active in (more...)
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