Does Getting Older Mean Getting Wiser?

By Lauren Selman | Bio


I
recently watched one of my favorite shows, "Sex in the City." This show
features four protagonists that constantly prove that 30 is the new 20
and uncovers their relationships in the city of New York. In this
particular episode, the older women were poignantly juxtaposed against
young starlettes to emphasis they’re "getting older". The plot
circulated around the question about aging that Carrie posed at the top
of the episode: "Does getting older mean getting wiser?"

I
feel that, in the discussion of aging, the concepts of "getting older"
are synonymous with "getting wiser." But is this really the case? How
do we begin to define "wisdom"? I have personally met several older
people who may have been on the planet longer, but I would challenge
their capacity of wisdom. Is wisdom acquiring the most amount of
breaths in one’s body or is it the realization of consequences and
experiences of one’s life? Can we justify the concept of "eldering"/
"getting older" as truly becoming more wise?

I recently
traveled in Thailand, where I met the oldest man I have ever seen. He
may not have been the wisest, but definitely the oldest! He lived in a
small hut in the rear part of a rural village in Northern Thailand.
Members of the community would come and bring him food throughout the
day as he sat, blind and deaf to the world. He was said to be 120 years
old. But it is difficult to say how "old" he was because no one truly
knew. When he was born, there wasn’t someone jotting down the exact
position of the big hand next to the little hand on the clock, nor
someone noting down the day, month or year. As he grew up, he did not
have landmark "birthday" celebrations that welcomed him to the next
year of his life.

I found that during my travels in Southeast
Asia, to not know one’s age is a common phenomenon. Either there were
no calendars or in some parts there was so much social unrest no one
cared about when they were born. They did not let age define them for
it was not integrated into their culture.

In the States, one can easily highlight the key questions in an introductory meeting:

  1. What do you do?
  2. How old are you?
  3. Did you go to college and where?

In the rural village in Northern Thailand, the questions were:

  1. Are you pregnant?
  2. Do you have a husband?
  3. Where is your mother?

These six questions alone show the differences in priorities.

I wonder…if we change our questions, can we change our relationship to aging? 

0 thoughts on “Does Getting Older Mean Getting Wiser?”

  1. Older doesn’t necessarily mean wiser…just as younger doesn’t necessarily mean unwise. Wisdom is not exclusive to any particular generation, age or culture. That 120-year-old man may have some wisdom that no one else on the planet has…but we’ll only find that out by getting to know him and opening up to receiving whatever his contribution might be. Just as a newborn baby has ‘wisdom’ that she shares simply by ‘being’.

    Wisdom is an assessment we make based on our culture, experiences and expectations. The question is what are we looking for when we see another person? If we change our line of inquiry from “How many years have you lived?” to “Who are you and what do you have to contribute?”, then we’ll have a totally different experience of each other.

    BTW, the Eldering slogan “wisdom in action” does not signify that ONLY the older generation is wise…

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