Kudos To Cato the Elder

Hank Mattimore
March 29, 2015
Reproduced with Permission

Cato, the Elder, Roman statesman and philosopher, started to study Greek at the age of 80. When questioned by a younger friend why he was taking up a brand new language so late in life, Cato was said to reply "Well it's the only time I have left."

Cato's example could be a kick in the pants for all of us old geezers who use our advanced years as a handy excuse to avoid trying new stuff or giving back to society what we have received. Many of us are quite familiar with playing the age card when it suits us. But, in the long run, we don't do ourselves any favor by slowing down to a hobble when we are quite capable of walking.

Obviously I am not talking about older people who are severely disabled. Both younger people and healthy old folks owe them our support and assistance.

But if the good Lord gave us a healthy second half to our life as well as a first, He/She must have had a reason for it. We are alive because our lives are still incomplete. We have a job to do, people to forgive, children to encourage, fences to mend, stories to tell and songs to sing.

Remember the poet Browning's words about the second half of life being "the best is yet to be" ? Our modern world, in its obsession with staying youthful at any cost, has managed to turn Browning's words around hasn't it?" The best is yet to be has become the worst is yet to be." As a society we are gripped by a fear of aging. We even have a buzz word for it…"Gerontophobia."

Well, I say handle that gerontophobia BS with a sense of humor. A quirky friend of mine was wont to say, with a twinkle in her 85 year old eyes, "Life is getting awfully scary these days. sometimes I wonder if I'm going to get out of it alive."

Maybe the greatest gift we elders can pass on to the next generation is to put aside the fear of aging and just keep truckin. We're old enough to know that we may not change the world, but we can improve ourselves and, by George, we can improve our little corner of the world.

Recalling the immortal words of the great Yogi Berra, "It ain't over till it's over," we can finish our life journey with our brains still engaged, our legs still pumping. That old guy, Cato the Elder, he had the right idea.