Depression affects more than 18 million people in the US. Interestingly, only 6 million of those statistics come from older adults. What does this really mean? I think it means that far too many people are getting far too sad, far, too young. 20 years ago, depression in youth was unheard of. Not anymore.
I remember my own youth with both fondness and joy. However, the older I get the harder it is to maintain the optimism that I once had. Quite frankly, there is a reason for that: everything is harder and takes more energy now. For example, did you know that it takes a 20 year-old 20% of their strength to get out of a chair? However, it takes an 80 year-old 80% of their strength to accomplish the same feat!
My 20’s were filled with dreams and possibilities. Many of those possibilities came to fruition but few of the dreams did. Didn’t matter. It was just important to dream them. That’s where hope lies. That’s how you discover who you are: putting one foot in front of the other. Though I had nothing to do with how fast the minutes of my life rushed by, I am responsible for what they left in their wake.
A few years ago, I met a woman exactly my age in a nursing home. Unfathomable. Last week, I met one even younger in assisted living! I am humbled to still be here when some of my friends are not. I am grateful to still be mobile while others limp, push walkers, or are bedridden. I am humbled to still have optimism while some of my peers have grown bitter. My greatest gift now comes when the young seek my counsel. I love the earnestness of their thoughts even though they painfully lack experience. It will come. . .and faster than they can yet imagine.
I have been the duckling, all down and fluff as well as the mother duck with her young paddling behind. Now, I skirt the pond pleased that the bulrushes still grow in a spring rich with color. In spite of all our weaknesses and mistakes we eventually do grow up, if nothing more than because we must. However, I cannot conceive of reaching this age happily without fond memories of a joyful youth. Someone please tell this to the young people in your life: you can’t start over and make a new beginning but you can start now and make a new ending.