Older adults through the ages have encountered varying degrees of respect and inclusion in society. In ancient Rome, where living past 70 was a rarity, citizens respected their elders as a valuable resource. Roman philosopher Cicero affirmed this with, “For there is assuredly nothing dearer to a man than wisdom, and though age takes away all else, it undoubtedly brings us that.”
Today, aging is still considered a sign of experience and wisdom in many cultures across the planet. We bring you poignant proverbs and sayings about old age from some these people groups.
The African continent has a rich heritage of passing down stories and beliefs from older adults to the younger, often in the form of oral storytelling. These oral traditions typically teach socially acceptable behaviors and values within families and entire communities. As this African proverb depicts, when you respect the elderly, you lay down a path toward honor and prosperity. A Central-African proverb from the Ntomba people advises that, “A youth that does not cultivate friendship with the elderly is like a tree without roots.”
In today’s increasingly Western-influenced China, many families still follow the Confucian tradition of respecting elders as the highest virtue. In traditional Chinese culture, the young through middle-aged receive little attention on their birthdays. Families celebrate decade birthdays starting at age 60. With each new decade reached comes an even bigger party and more significant celebratory gifts. In this way, an aging loved one is treated like a treasured gem.
The Bible is replete with a number of references to valuing the wisdom and experience of older adults. King Solomon of ancient Israel is credited in 1 Kings 4:32 with writing 3,000 proverbs. His Proverbs 20 declaration about the stateliness of gray hair warms the hearts of seniors everywhere.
English poet and playwright Robert Browning extends an invitation to age well by viewing one’s final years as the best yet to be. He takes it a step further by declaring that our first seasons of life were actually made for enjoying our “last of life.” It’s as if Browning is saying, “Old age, game on!”
About the Author
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.