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'Life is Still Good'

'Life is Still Good'

Monday September 18 2023

The Very Rev Dr James Simpson candidly reflects on the challenges of ageing.


Serenity and smiles are without doubt two of the most attractive features in the elderly.

The slogan of the war years, ‘keep calm and carry on’, captures the positive outlook of many like myself who are growing old. So also do the words of St Paul: “I have learned in all circumstances to be content,” not just on days when the sun shines brightly, but on those days when the clouds blot out the sun.

When I see someone who looks old, I realise they are my age!  Being in my 90th year, my walking and balance are now much poorer. I have joined the brigade of stick walkers. My memory has also markedly deteriorated. I often struggle to remember where the dishes go in the kitchen.  In church and on the street I am regularly embarrassed by not being able to recall the names of people I have known well for years. My wife Helen has become not only my carer and chauffeur, but also my memory. But despite these geriatric problems, I continue to enjoy life.

Though I have no fear of dying, I am concerned about the possibility of becoming a burden to my wife and family whom I dearly love, and who continue to be so supportive. With that in mind I am determined each day to try and make the best of declining health, to live as fully as I can within new limitations.

Though I can no longer write books, I can still write letters and short articles.  I continue to cherish friends with whom I enjoy sharing a coffee or a meal, and having a good laugh.  The ability to see humour in words and everyday happenings, to be amazed and amused by life, is I believe among the most profound of human characteristics. Deep joyous laughter really is good medicine. It can ease the weight of many old age problems. Where there is humour and laughter, all is not dark.

When occasionally in the street I meet people, who say to me: “You look wonderful,” I sometimes suspect what they really mean is for someone as old as I am, I don’t look bad! I no longer write books, or read novels. My problem is that after reading 50 pages of a novel, I cannot remember what the first twenty pages were all about! I do however continue to enjoy reading short articles in magazines and in newspapers.  Seated in the evening in a comfortable armchair, I also enjoy watching sport programmes,  especially golf programmes, when Rory McIlroy is playing! Life is still good.