"Learning this is particularly difficult for those of us who, for diverse reasons, are accustomed to taking care of things by ourselves. Autonomy, whether driving or walking or preparing our own meals, is one of the things we cherish most dearly. Clinging to it when we no longer have alertness or flexibility can become a new source of suffering. It is a lesson we must inevitably learn. The fruit of this learning is to one day consent to letting go, to accept that we are no longer in control, and to gratefully receive what is given.
"As we age, the real task of life and love is to continually hand over, without bitterness, regret, or envy, all the things that were once so much our own: power, attention, popularity, usefulness, turf of every sort. It's something we will have to work at. Disability, inactivity, hopelessness, helplessness, anger at being dependent, and even feelings of worthlessness are the stuff of depression. Resistance to aging thrives on the assumption that somehow this should not be happening to me. But aging is a part of life. It calls forth from us a new level of honesty, openness, and willingness to face the inevitable. While we do not get to choose when or how we are going to die, we can decide how we are going to live.
"A good strategy is to cultivate friendships not only with those of our own age, but also with those who are both younger and older than ourselves. We can draw upon the wisdom and experience of our seniors and learn from their coping skills. And since one of the least attractive aspects of aging is the feeling that one is no longer up to date, younger friends can serve as mentors and coaches to keep us in the game with digital technology that enables us to stay connected.
"The aged person is no longer defined by possessions, but by this new capacity to receive gracefully what is offered. One enters into a gratuitous world where everything is given and nothing is owed. In the ordinariness of daily life, this experience can open to a deepening of the spiritual life in which one simply allows oneself to be cared for.
"We are called at this time in our lives to bless others, especially the young, by admiring their energy, beauty, and achievement without envy or bitterness. This involves saying what John the Baptist said when Jesus appeared: 'He must increase and I must decrease.' "