Age offers benefits

Published 5:18 pm Friday, October 31, 2008

As the daughter and granddaughter of two intelligent people who died as Alzheimer’s patients, I understand my friend, Jim Smith’s concern about age and a sharp mind as expressed in his Oct. 18th Post-Searchlight column.

I see things differently because (1) I have known many individuals of advanced age who remain quite intelligent decision makers, persons I would look to for leadership; (2) despite my DNA, I have experienced improved decision making and memory with age; (3) the students I taught at Bainbridge High School and in Valdosta forgot names, what they had come to my desk to ask me, and where were their car keys.

It’s not age. It’s a very busy mind with an overloaded schedule.Car keys, names, appointments and what town they are in are why presidents and CEOs have drivers, aides and appointment secretaries. Assistants handle routine details so that leaders can focus on leadership.

Email newsletter signup

I also see things differently because I recognize our society’s youth worship that has developed since the 1960s. Creating an unfortunate youth cult, we strive to maintain ourselves as young instead of growing into mature decision makers. When we praise youth for youth’s sake, we ignore some youthful decisions: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Jim Jones village, Charles Manson and his followers, Ted Bundy, Oklahoma City bombers, the pilots of Sept. 11, and President John Kennedy’s second-guessing his decision that led to the Bay of Pigs disaster.

We ignore what past generations knew and other cultures know: Revere the gray-haired ones precisely for the wisdom that comes with age. Listen and call on them to lead. Learn the lessons of history.

Compare the biography of young Anwar Sadat, the terrorist to mature President Sadat, whose peacemaking work led to his assassination.

Compare the work of young Adolph Hitler (44 when named chancellor) to the wise leadership of Winston Churchill (66 when made prime minister in World War II). Age offers benefits to society.

Marcia O. McRaeBainbridge