I offer myself, immodestly, as the third exhibit. I am not in a stage that anybody would call young, but I neither feel decrepit nor think of myself as an older person. I live by myself, travel and work extensively, eat and drink happily, socialize energetically, read indiscriminately, eat sensibly but enthusiastically, drink heartily though not heavily, and live very joyfully.
As the standard of life go up, savings make up for the loss of income when people stop working. As the standard of healthcare go up, new drugs and therapies make up for the age-associated frailties. Suddenly the ever-expanding work hours are replaced by the ever-promising leisure hours. Comfortable travel, carefree socialization, congenial sports, capricious reading, all become possible and available.
Gone overnight too are the vicissitudes of love and romance, the resulting hurts and heartaches, the aching adjustments of conjugal life, the sleepless nights and thankless sacrifices of parenthood, the endless strain of proving oneself in one’s company and one’s community. You have realized by now that you will not be a ballyhooed corporate titan, a beloved community leader or even a branded tennis star. You have found peace in the realization of your middling gifts, even your mediocrity. Now is the time to find joy in what is feasible, the tea and sympathy of a pleasant neighbor, a game of chess in the club backroom, a weekend overnight trip to visit the last college friend you still have.
No, the experience of old age, even with its dolorous signs of creaky joints, leaky memory and waning energy, will not drive you to walk out the door in search of Nirvana. It will rather help you scale to a new plateau of placidity, reconcile you to the soaring peak you will never reach, and make you glad that you have what you have: a wealth of life, a taste of peace and the prospect of abundant joy.