It used to be thought that the 100 year life was science fiction. Not any more. The number of 100 year olds and people in their 90s is growing, year on year. And they are not in wheelchairs. They are active, in one way or another, writing books, teaching yoga, running marathons, and helping to care for their grandchildren. It’s as a famous science writer observed, ‘The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.’ It begs the question, if you want to live a full, satisfying life, what do you need to do? And – what do you need to avoid?
In other words, how not to be knackered at 90?
Let me explain this word ‘knackered.’ It’s an English colloquial expression described by the Urban dictionary as a ‘word used to describe a person or object that is spent beyond all reasonable use as in “He is only fit for the knacker’s yard”. The knacker’s yard was where injured and worn out horses were taken to be slaughtered. ‘Spent beyond all reasonable use’, ‘worn out to the point of extinction’ is encapsulated in this one word, and I haven’t found another that does the job as well. When I ran it by my pastor he said he knew people who were knackered at forty, never mind ninety.
It’s something you do not want to be, at any age. In What’s age Got To Do With It are people who are ninety and older, but they are not knackered. They may have had arthritis, creaky knees, and some of the various ailments that come with old age, but they are not ‘spent beyond all reasonable use.’ I tell the story of George, totally paralysed, breathing through a tube and unable to move, who did the shopping (via computer), befriended others, encouraged his wife, and helped educate his daughter.
So what is it about them? What did they have, and how can we prepare now, whatever our age, for when we will be ninety?
It’s not to do with physical exercise, although that’s a Good Thing. It isn’t to do with healthy eating, either, although that, too, is also a Good Thing. Other Good Things not to be sniffed at are getting a good night’s sleep; staying socially connected and continually learning new things. The main thing to know about how not to be knackered at ninety is that you need to have a sense of purpose, and be prepared to persevere. George persevered because he wanted to enjoy his family to the last second of his life. The biblical Jacob persevered because he wanted to marry his beloved Rachel.
Perseverance is one of the most important attributes to successful living in old age, or indeed, at any time of life. In business, pundits say it’s the key to success. In his letter to the Christians at Rome Paul reminded them that persevering through difficult times builds character, and that proven character produces hope; ‘and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.’ So the ability to persevere is both a sign of character, and at the same time something that builds character.
It makes all the difference in the world knowing that we are here by design, not by accident. God’s life design includes old age, for a very good reason. Each older person has a distinct purpose in life.
In What’s Age Got to Do With It? are check-points that tell if you are ready for the future – and what to do if you aren’t!
The book will be available from 22nd September through regular retail outlets and our Pilgrims’ Friend Society website www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk