Getting Older is Something to Be Proud Of

 

Getting Older is Something to Be Proud Of

I am not old.

Yes, it’s been almost forty years since I applied to law school. Yes, I am over 60 years old. Yes, my hair is turning whiter. Yes, I keep getting mail from the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. Yes, I qualify for an assortment of senior discounts at restaurants and stores. But, I am not old.

Cicero claims with affected astonishment in his De Senectute, his discourse on old age: “What is this old age which all men desire to obtain, and yet which all men find fault with so soon as they have obtained it? They say it comes upon them quicker than they expected... .”

The truth is, I am getting older. And, it is happening quicker than I expected!

I am still going to my office every day. I am still actively practising family law. My family arbitration and mediation practices continue to thrive and grow. I still get excited about the prospect of advising new clients and assisting more families. I’m happy at work!

Getting older, and the accompanying wealth of knowledge and experience that comes with it, is something to be proud of.

There is no need to give up on a profession you love just because you reach a certain age. If your health permits and the work interests you and excites you, then you should keep doing it.

Older lawyers have much to contribute to our colleagues and to our communities. There are always new challenges to keep us active and engaged.

Lawyers can add value to society at large. Joining a law-related board or committee or getting involved in a community organization can help each of us grow personally and professionally.

At the same time, we have an opportunity to build intergenerational engagement between young lawyers and older lawyers. The beginning of a legal career is usually a bewildering and worrisome time. New lawyers need good mentors.

All of us are the guardians of a rich professional heritage. Each of us can play a key role in teaching a new generation of lawyers, sharing our values, and preserving our traditions while at the same time acknowledging the reconciliation of our Indigenous peoples and their role in our legal system.

Let us not forget that our laws and legal policies resulted in disparities and inequalities between Indigenous peoples and our more expansive Canadian society. Older lawyers, who have borne witness to the history of those laws and legal policies, have a special responsibility to address these inequalities and work to build a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Many years ago, I met a very old man. He was 99 years old and born in 1876. We chatted as we walked along the sandy seashore of a Scottish island in the Outer Hebrides and into the nearby town. He delighted in talking about the wonders of his lifetime. He didn’t dwell on difficulties and disappointments. He happily told me how he got up every morning and readied himself for the day. He put on a clean shirt and a tie, pulled on his old tweed jacket, and placed his flat cap carefully on his head and went for a long walk. “I dinnae want to miss anythin’,” he said in his authoritative Scottish brogue.

Part of the wisdom of my great uncle, and a retired judge, surfaced as a steady expression of gratitude for all those people who shaped his long life together with a determination to remain engaged in his community and an unending desire for personal enlightenment.

Like him, getting older is to be embraced and celebrated, and the extra time so many of us have is a gift to be used meaningfully and wisely.