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Getting old disgracefully?

So Prince Philip – aged 97 – has voluntarily handed in his driving licence. “The roads will undoubtably be safer now,” said Emma Fairweather, who broke her wrist in a crash involving the Duke of Edinburgh last month. It’s hard to sympathise with the elderly prince, who can access a chauffeur to take him wherever he wants to go. But cars are a life-line for many elderly people, facilitating access shops and social events as well as healthcare services. To have to give up driving because you’re getting older must be a huge wrench.

As a society we aren’t comfortable with aging. Far from seeing it as a sign of growth, increasing wisdom and peace, we generally present growing old as something negative, taking things away from us rather than bringing us any gifts. Of course it’s natural to fear death and the mini-deaths we experience as our lives change. Aging does challenge our sense of being in control, as nature does it’s inevitable work.

How do we respond? We can fight it – refusing in the words of Dylan Thomas’ poem to “go gentle into that good night”. Perhaps Prince Philip is one of these, striving to keep his agency and independence as long as he can. We can fear it – perhaps not even getting to the end of an article like this because thoughts about aging and dying are just too painful. Or we can face it – allowing ourselves to be as we are now in this time and this place. Therapy can help with this process of facing things – providing an accepting and compassionate space for all our complex feelings to be heard, welcomed and worked through. Far be it from me to suggest Prince Philip try therapy! But I do know it helps when we’re facing any unwelcome change.

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