Do young people understand anything about being old? Possibly a bit, but I suspect little more than that. Let me clue you in on a few facts—at least as I have experienced age, and as others have told me they also find things to be for them in later life.
First, when you’re old you don’t really consider yourself different from what you seemed to be years and years ago. You’re still you. You recognize the person as the same one, not one all that different. The real differences are not in the “you” within; they appear—often with a vengeance—most clearly in the condition of the body (see Ecclesiastes where that is the one factor mentioned about age). Aches and pains, bodily malfunction—these are the things that stand out.
I don’t think of myself as growing old inwardly. That is, my “self” growing old. I once asked a group of elderly preachers about this matter, and to a man, they agreed with me. They didn’t think of their inner selves as aging. Becoming wiser, more mature in outlook, yes—older, no. A converted person, of course, sees himself different from the one he was before conversion. But he’s the same person—now converted, changed, but not older because of conversion.
Now, I don’t say that an old person can’t talk himself into thinking all sorts of ways about himself, about his age, or about anything else. After all, the fool says in his heart “There is no God.” I suspect most non fools would agree that it is sheer tomfoolery to think of yourself as anything other than what you are—a person, matured in his thinking, who lives in a body that is aging. But, of course, there are tom-fools around!
So, young people, I suggest that you address us as people-not as elderly people. Expect our views to be more seasoned, more conservative in many ways—but not as people who simply aren’t with it anymore. We may, in some ways, be more with it than you. And you might even learn something now and then from one of us!
Granted, the aches and pains and disabilities may get the better of us, and we may from time to time become grouchy. No excuse for that, though! We may allow noise to get on our nerves, and disorder can be confusing. We may get tired and drop out sooner than we’d like to. But we are only responding as we do in these ways because of bodies that make a more youthful response difficult.
I don’t know whether this makes any sense to you or not. But give it a try—if you do, you may come up with a different judgment about those older than you. After all—you may be there someday yourself.