Webster’s dictionary defines pathology as the study of the essential nature of diseases and especially of the structural and functional changes produced by them.
Is growing old the same as a chronic disease that eventually ends in death? Is a cancer diagnosis the same as an aging diagnosis? It is obvious that as we age there are functional and structural changes, but are they caused by disease?
A very famous, or infamous, scientist Aubry de Grey published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences that humans could live 1,000 years. His basic premise is that since aging is a series of deterioration and/or disease, science could discover the cures for each pathology and, in essence, cure aging.
The most obvious contradiction that comes to my mind is that there are older people who are never ill and have no apparent pathology. They are active, engaged, and mentally sharp and simply die in their sleep, a desire we all share!
So, where were the signs of pathology? Do we think of a child maturing from 10 to 11 years old — even though they grow an inch — as suffering from an aging pathology? I don’t think so. So, when does aging become a pathology, or does it?
An interesting take on this question comes from Jan Baar, Ph.D. author of “Aging and the Art of Living.”
Baar says: “Chronological age is not the cause of anything. Old age is not a disease. It is not a pathology. It is not abnormal. It is not a problem. Old age is a continuum, and everyone is on it. We’re all aging all the time. You are aging right now as you read these words — and not any faster or slower than an infant or a grandfather.”
Baar suggests the most important element for each of us is to have an aging philosophy.
How we view this progression and how we accept or reject the process may have more to do with our experience than the number of years we live. Our western culture is so bent on anti-aging that we don’t give aging any honor.
Baar goes on to say: “Philosophy helps us define our terms. What do we mean by old? Chronological age misses the mark. It is meaningless. It tells us nothing about a person.”
I believe in a pro-aging philosophy, a philosophy that is not focused on staying young as long as possible but one that dwells on the benefits of age. The gifts of aging, like wisdom, peace, reconciliation, love, freedom, autonomy and happiness, are worthy of pursuit.
So, let’s spend our time chasing those gifts and letting go of the struggle to stay young. And don’t forget there are always senior discounts to love.
Find Connie’s book, “Daily Cures: Wisdom for Healthy Aging,” at www.justnowoldenough.com.