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Posted on Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 11:10 a.m.

Limitations that come with aging shouldn't be only change people see

By Robert Faber

After all these many years of getting through each decade in order to better cope with the next, we don’t see ourselves as different from our previous selves — except maybe a bit weaker, a little slower and, of course, in keeping with the supportive cliche of the aged — much wiser.

Such generosity in self-appreciation is not universal, but is rather a reaction of the individual, varying from person to person. I, for example, always believed my performance on the ski slopes in my early-80's was as smooth and accomplished as it was in the early days of my maturity — although that may say more about my limited earlier skills than about my longevity. And lately I’ve been troubled and more than a little surprised when using a cart for 18 holes of golf on a hot summer day is more a necessity than a luxury — and that not even with such indulgence can I reduce the number of strokes that accumulate during this exhausting exercise.

Fortunately, despite my new (or newly recognized) athletic limitations, my vision of myself as a reasonably skilled athlete, nourished by the fantasies of eight decades of delusion, remains intact, enabling me to perceive my poor performance as just another step in my continuing improvement.

For the better part of the last two years I have been fortunate to have some of my observations appear in the The justification for this privilege was the expertise on aging assumed to have been granted me by my longevity, encouraging me to give advice — or perhaps solace — to seniors entering that late and worrisome stage of life.

While the focus of many of those articles reflected my natural optimism by concentrating on the high hopes and achievements of advanced senior status (an appealing concept for most aging activists), the instinctive reaction of many youngsters just entering that period of adulthood is a bit different. Many of our juniors tend to group all ancients together as a single force, convinced that under our greying or vanishing hair and beneath our newly wrinkled skin we are all pretty much the same. They may see us as antiques diminished by the fading efficiency of brain cells worn out by decades of too much thinking, or as beneficiaries of cells grown wise and strong by their decades of exercise in guiding us through some of the more obscure mysteries of life, but in either case we all appear as members of the same extinct tribe.

The reality, of course, is that old people are simply young people who have aged — perhaps who have aged a lot. That does not eliminate the natural changes that attend the process of aging, but it should justify a bit of caution in accepting any too hasty conclusions. My inadequacy on the golf course, for example, is hardly a new phenomenon, the sad consequence of an aging body, but is a failing that has hounded me for the past many decades. And my poker losses are not because of my inability to properly compute the odds of success before making or calling the net bet, but are more a product of the irrational optimism that had always guided my moves in life — both at and away from the poker table.

Out of all this scientific evaluation comes the inescapable truth — that the flaws and strengths of our older selves tend to be a continuation of who we were at the beginning. Our maturity may have given us some insights or new perspectives to enhance our several strong points, or perhaps further damaged our well-being by playing to our assorted weaknesses and short-comings, but the essence of who or what we are largely was determined at about the time of our exit from the womb.

And that is a concept with which many of our replacement generation, the youngsters just starting their journey to Senior status, seem to have problems comprehending. After so many decades on the firing line and now perceived to have been reduced to the role of obsolete observers, we are seen by the young almost as a different species altogether.

One of the facts of life, however, is that it is the flaws and strengths that had been built into us at birth that largely determined our character and that to some degree shaped and colored our future. With help from our early guides in life — our parents, our teachers, our friends — and by trying to be reasonable, objective and fair when approaching our dotage, we can modify our flaws and enhance our better points at least somewhat, but primarily we are the product of our genes.

Or, in the immortal words of Popeye, one of our great early American heroes, the basic truth for most of us is that, “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.” It is the problem of coming to terms with such limitations — thereby ending our dependence on the irrational hopes of unlikely dreams — that could be most illuminating and possibly most disturbing.

Robert Faber has been a resident of Ann Arbor since 1954. He and his wife, Eunice, owned a fabric store and later a travel agency. He served a couple of terms on the Ann Arbor City Council. He may be reached at



Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

What!!!! Being someone who is in the middle of their journey through life, but by circumstances of health feeling many of the same physical limitations of people decades older, that closing your mind to the views of younger generations is what obsoletes yourself, not that your body has aged. Perhaps it has been influenced by your life's experience, but I have to say that there are views that both young and old can inspire with. It depends a lot on maintaining an open mind and being willing to learn. Babies are born wanting to learn and absorb experiences in life - leading us to new and evolving perspectives. As we age, some of the experiences we have may have along the way may or may not deter us from continuing on paths of new discovery and exploration. That is a personal choice and has nothing to do with body or age. I think and hope there are a lot of people who are much older than me that would agree.

Jamie Pitts

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Robert! This gets me thinking about the life-long process of merging our aspirations with the realities of our world and the limitations of ourselves. It has often struck me that only the oldest people seem to have found the right amount of give and take between what is wanted and what actually is.

Hunter Blackhawk

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 11:01 a.m.

I have to admit much of what is said is true. But there's 2 things I've found that can be fun and entertaining. First is: I've kept my body in great shape all my life and it just cracks me up when these 30somethings think they can charm they way into wallet. Ain't happening. I don't need eye candy on my arm to stroke my ego.The other this I've found is: I can get away with saying just about anything I want and if a young person gets "offended", that's their problem. I did 12 years and served my country proudly. I was brought up to be a patrotic PROUD, American being second generation Polish -born American.

Hunter Blackhawk

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 11:10 a.m.

Speaking of being proud vet...can someone please answer me a question??? Why did they see fit to put the American Flag on all uniforms BACKWARDS?? I've heard the reasons and to me, they sound silly. Proper flag procall calls for the stars to be in the UPPER LEFT unless it is being displayed as a distress signal or, a blatent sign of disrespect.. Oh, while I'm on my military soapbox.....what's with everyone getting a beret now???? We had to EARN that beret and it was a sign of elete pride. Whatsa matter....everyone have to feel equal?? Sheesh.....The longer I live, the less and less I understand this world we live in.