Column: Aging and maturity

There is no question that many of us are old.

But there may well be a question whether we are mature.

I recently heard an elderly man complain about his lot in life. He has a collective memory for depressing negatives and a rich vocabulary describing how miserable he is. His grandchildren are ungrateful, unloving and “don’t appreciate what I’ve done for them.”

They rarely visit him, he said. I can understand why. Who wants to be around an old grouch? Or expose young children to him?

Clearly he is an old man. But I wouldn’t call him mature. His outlook on life reflects that of a self-centered, spoiled youngster who failed to receive all the gifts he thought he deserved for his birthday.

My encounter with him prompted me to think about the differences between being mature and being old. So, here are my impressions about mature folks and the nature of maturity—descriptions that I wouldn’t necessarilly apply to old people.

• Mature people are alive to the wonder and curiosity they experienced as a child, and retain the ability for childlike play.

• Maturity is carrying within you a new song every day.

• Maturity is knowing you are aging well when you no longer worry about getting old.

• Mature people pay attention to others who are aging well—and learn from them.

• Mature people don’t try to young anymore; they wear their age with pride.

• Maturity is appreciating how little you know.

• Maturity is realizing that other people’s faults are no worse than yours. Old people focus on the flaws of others and overlook their own.

• Mature people realize that few, if any, of their favorite beliefs and ideas originated with them.

• Maturity is a commitment to personal growth, bolstered by a belief that learning is a key to living a fulfilling life.

• Mature people look at expensive antiques and remember, with a sparkle in their eyes, when they first bought stuff just like them.

• Mature people would not be characterized as self-centered or self-absorbed. They have little self-consciousness. They are at ease with their imperfect lives.

• Maturity is making a will, arranging for their death, and then baking a meatloaf, cleaning the bedrooms, and in all other ways, getting on with their life.

• Mature people view aging as an inevitable process, best managed by those who are not faint of heart.

And maturity is appreciating the wisdom offered to us by two of my favorite people:

Bernard Baruch—“To me, old age is fifteen years older than I am.”

• Erma Bombeck—“Big deal! I’m used to dust!” (Requested for her gravestone.)