Unless, of course, preparing for death is one of our primary tasks in life. If you aren't going to do that when you are old, when, exactly, were you going to get around to it? Is God going to say "Well, at least you kept playing tennis until you were eighty. I'm proud of you for that."
I usually dislike writers putting quite so many phrases in quotes, but Davis gets it just about right, because so many of the common phrases of our discourse about aging are suspect, and deserve to be belittled. A few quotes pulled from the article:
(Margaret) Manning quotes the actor Jamie Lee Curtis, then 56: " If I can challenge old ideas about aging, I will feel more and more invigorated. I want to represent this new way. I want to be a new version of the 70-year-old woman. Vital, strong, very physical, very agile. I think that the older I get, the more yoga I’m going to do." Manning notes that Curtis “isn’t afraid of getting older. Instead of seeing life after 60 as a time to take it easy, she is looking forward to the opportunity to make the absolute most of her life.”I dunno. It sounds like like getting older is exactly what Curtis is afraid of.
Aging well by such criteria requires continuous demonstrations of success through signs of initiative and energy. Appearance—looking healthy, fit, and “put together”—is also crucial: “To look old is to be old” ...Again, the measure is the body. Health, fitness, a youthful appearance, entrepreneurial energy: These are not “add-ons,” like fashion or cosmetics; they are something you are.I think this is deeply related to the myths that attitude actually creates health and longer life. Cancer patients are given this ringamarole from first diagnosis, that you aren't supposed to let cancer "beat you," that you are supposed to fight back and beat cancer. Unfortunately, there isn't any evidence that this makes the slightest difference. Everyone who has cancer fights hard, because the fear is great and the treatments are difficult. In retrospect, the ones who survive we say "See? She didn't give in to cancer!" So too with aging. People believe if you do all these amazing things you will live longer, and if you don't do them you are "giving in" and are going to die sooner. Does anyone talk about "giving in" to a broken leg, or hypertension? Christians have their own versions of this, certainly, of positive confession or Naming and Claiming.
...antiaging and successful aging push toward a similar framing of old age as undesirable and, at least for a time, preventable. Both treat frailty and disability as indications of failure and emphasize individual choice and effort without regard to the hardships and inequalities many older people actually endure. Both promote an evasion of the inevitable confrontations with disability, disease, and death.I don't generally much like Carl Jung, but he had it right with this:
“a human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning.” (Emphasis mine)It would be easy to say that facing death and successful aging are not mutually exclusive. However, in the traditional meaning of facing death and the current meaning of successful aging, they are at least at odds. I don't think you can focus on both at once.