I was initially interested in this book because I’m getting close to 40, and the book is pitched as ‘Ancient Wisdom for the Second Half of Life’. I hope to live a lot longer than 74, however we never know which half of our life we’re in.
I don’t think it really matters when you read this — if you’re younger or older, it provides you with wisdom, perspective and hope.
Now that I’ve read this essay and summarised the main points, I feel so much more at peace about growing old. In fact, I’m really looking forward to it; knowing that I’ve got a lot more learning to do, and lot of experiences to have, but also that I’ll have more wisdom and possibly different interests and a different perspective.
What I’ve realised is that the best thing I can do for myself is to live a good life now, and be confident that this will set me up for a good life in future decades.
There’s so much to learn from this short essay, and I’ve placed below some of the major points I picked up. If you find these notes enlightening I suggest you read How To Grow Old by Cicero (Amazon UK) in full for yourself.
How to grow old — preparing for the second half of life
- To have a good life in old age you need have a good life in young age. How you behave in old age is a reflection of how you lived your whole life.
- Throughout your whole life and into old age, exercise your mind
- Just as much as you enjoy this age, you will enjoy old age — it’s the seasons of life. We enjoy certain things when we are young and other things when we are old. For what youth longs for, old age has attained.
- Find something — a worthwhile activity — that gives you true enjoyment. It’s essential for happiness. Grow some vegetables and tend to them.
- Growing old shouldn’t be a burden to you.
- You will enjoy any age in life if you have a strong philosophy and character.
- Don’t complain about old age. The course of life cannot change. Each stage of life has it’s appropriate qualities.
- Great deeds are done with wisdom, character and sober judgements.
- Old people maintain a sound mind as long as they remain eager to learn and apply themselves.
- Appreciate that the work you do isn’t for you, but for who is here when you are gone.
- Older people enjoy the company of the young. Young people should enjoy the company of the old.
- Use your [physical] strength appropriately whatever age you are.
- Treat old age like a disease that needs care and attention.
- [in old age] don’t allow yourself to become drowsy, sluggish and inert.
- Don’t worry about losing your sexual pleasures. In old age there is little desire. If you don’t long for something, you don’t miss it. There is no greater pleasure than the pleasure of the mind.
- Only when the earlier years of life have been well spent does old age at last gather the fruits of admiration.
- [misery in old age] is a fault of character, not age. The truth is, that a persons character, like wine, does not necessarily grow sour with age.
- Be content with what life you have to live, nothing that has and end seems long.