Connecting the dots on West Papua, Part 3
Bilas – an exhibition of PNG body adornment

The fascinations & pleasures of growing old



TUMBY BAY - One of the great indulgences granted to those of us of advanced age is the ability to regress to our native state and simply watch the world go by.

To wander aimlessly along a deserted beach, pad through the soft undergrowth of a forest or simply sit in the sun.

Or perhaps just laze at a pavement café, drinking coffee with a good friend while watching the hustle and bustle pass by.

There are no white lines or speed limits on our road ahead, we can swerve all over the place and go as fast or as slow as we like.

Wear whatever we like, be the real us, no need to put on a mask, say what we actually think so long as we don’t hurt anyone.

And maybe do what we’ve always really wanted to do; be a writer, a painter, a poet or anything else that takes our fancy.

We can actually now take the time to look around us and explore the other sub-worlds that exist on our planet which we never had the time to do before.

Watching a pair of birds building a nest, becoming engrossed in the goings and comings of an ant kingdom and spying on busy orb weaving spiders can be immensely satisfying.

Animal watching is a fascinating occupation. So too is people watching. In both cases there exists worlds full of colour and drama worthy of exploration.

At a ripe old age, and having the time to do this and learn new things along the way, makes getting old worthwhile.

Even when what you are learning is largely and delightfully inconsequential.

With nothing to prove there comes no guilt about being interested in the seemingly irrelevant or whimsical. 

Equanimity is a great gift that comes with age. Our lifetime experiences, good and bad, enable us to maintain a calm state of mind and positive attitude in the time we have left.

If you have seen it before, recurrences are less likely to upset or unnerve you. Such a sense of serenity is a godsend in these times of uncertainty.

So too should be the ability to pass on what we’ve learned and how it has gelled into positivity in our latter years.

Pointing out the likeliest, most rewarding and easiest paths in life to those coming behind you is a great way to create a legacy.

Hearing young people, including your own children, say I’m glad I listened to my mother and father is always an enjoyable fillip.

It’s a pity that such a legacy cannot be extended to those beyond your immediate family. Unfortunately, it’s only when you’ve enjoyed widespread acclaim that those people will listen to you.

But that’s life and it’s too late to be a celebrity, and there’s no need to worry about it even if you once fancied it.

When we are gone it is the memories and images of the latter part of our lives that will endure the longest.

It behoves us, therefore, to make sure we leave a good impression. To be remembered as an implacable grump and misery has to be avoided lest we are quickly forgotten.

By leaving a positive legacy we will live on in people’s memories for a long time.

My maternal grandfather was born in 1894, nearly 130 years ago, but I can still recall with remarkable vividness wandering around behind him on his farm when he was old, right down to the smells and sounds.

To think that I might have a grandson or granddaughter who can say the same thing one day is a remarkable source of solace.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

When people die they go to live in our memories.

I often have conversations and interactions with old friends and relatives in my dreams.

It works with animals too. It’s particularly pleasant to dream walk with old dogs.

Bernard Corden

Which one is Phil?

Garrett Roche

Phil's writing on the positive side of growing old brought back a memory of a saying, 'Do not regret growing old, it is a privilege denied to many!'

I remember the many old people I met in remote bush areas in the greater Mt Hagen area.

In my experience the really old people were almost always accompanied by young or mature relatives, so they were well looked after.

Rarely would one come across an elderly person living on their own. May we all grow old gracefully.

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