Old Age Quotations
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Here are about a hundred quotations on old age and maturity compiled from many sources, and new ones like "Becoming old suggests one takes far less pleasure in getting older."
The selections are sorted according to a general scheme that allows higher insights. First comes a compilation of things Buddha expresses about aging and old age.
From Buddha's Discourses (Sutras)
On one occasion Buddha sat warming his back in the western sun. Then Ananda went to the him and massaged his limbs with his hand and said, "It is amazing, lord. It is astounding, how the Blessed One's complexion is no longer so clear and bright; his limbs are flabby and wrinkled; his back, bent forward; there's a discernible change in his faculties - the faculty of the eye, the faculty of the ear, the faculty of the nose, the faculty of the tongue, the faculty of the body."
"That is the way it is, Ananda. When young, one is subject to aging; when healthy, subject to illness; when alive, subject to death. The complexion is no longer so clear and bright; the limbs are flabby and wrinkled; the back, bent forward; there is a discernible change in the faculties - the faculty of the eye, the faculty of the ear, the faculty of the nose, the faculty of the tongue, the faculty of the body."
"Those who live to a hundred are all headed to an end in death."
[From SN 48.41, Jara Sutta - Old Age]
The aging of beings, their old age, brokenness of teeth, grayness of hair, wrinkling of skin, decline of life, weakness of faculties - this is called aging. With the arising of birth there is the arising of aging and death.
[From MN 9, Sammaditthi Sutta, v. 21-22 - The Discourse on Right View]
The householder Nakulapita went to the Blessed One and said, "Bhagavan, I am a feeble old man, aged, advanced in years, having come to the last stage of life. I am afflicted in body and ailing with every moment. And it is only rarely that I get to see the Bhagavan and the monks who nourish the heart. May the Bhagavan teach me, may the Bhagavan instruct me, for my long-term benefit and happiness."
"So it is, householder. The body is afflicted, weak, and encumbered. So you should train yourself: 'Even though I may be afflicted in body, my mind will be unafflicted.' That is how you should train yourself."
Sariputta added: "And how is one afflicted in body but unafflicted in mind? A well-instructed disciple has regard for noble ones and is well-versed and disciplined in their Dharma; has regard for men of integrity and is well-versed and disciplined in their Dharma - his form changes and alters, but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change and alteration."
[Excerpts from SN 22.1, Nakulapita Sutta.]
On one occasion two brahmans - feeble old men, aged, advanced in years, having come to the last stage of life, 120 years old - went to Buddha and said to him: "Master Gotama, we are brahmans - feeble old men, aged, advanced in years, having come to the last stage of life, 120 years old. Teach us, Master Gautama. Instruct us, Master Gautama, for our long-term benefit and happiness."
"This world is swept away by aging, by illness, by death.
[From AN 3.51 and 52, Dvejana Sutta - Two People 1 and 2]
 Sradda (Sanskrit) or saddha (Pali), is confidence resting on inner knowledge somehow. What is meant is hardly blind faith, but deep conviction and even better: confidence based on one's activated knowledge. It is established by living it too.
At death a person abandons what he construes as mine. - Buddha, Sutta Nipata 4.6, Jara Sutta, tr. Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
As a water bead on a lotus leaf does not adhere, so the sage does not adhere. - Buddha, in Sutta Nipata 4.6, Jara Sutta, tr. Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
A wise man is not deluded by what is perceived. - Buddha (abr.) Sutta Nipata 4.6, Jara Sutta, tr. John D. Ireland.
Try and stick to right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration, as aging is stressful. - Cf. Buddha, Beyond Coping, Teachings on Aging, Illness, Death, and Separation, II. The Doctor's Diagnosis - 11 and 12, extracts.
In whatever beings, of whatever classification of beings, there is old age when there is decrepitude, broken teeth, gray hair, wrinkled skin, the dwindling of the life force, and the decaying of the sense faculties. This is called old age. [Buddha, Ebd 51]
Tibet's Patron Saint Milarepa on Old Age
✑ The life of Milarepa in a nutshell: [Milarepa's life]
✑ Teachings of Milarepa, a rosary: [Milarepa teachings]
Jetsun Milarepa (c. 1052 - c. 1135) is one of one of Tibet's most famous yogis and poets. In many of his songs and poems lie exquisite realizations.
This is the happy song the old man sings!
If one is really determined to free himself from the sufferings of Samsara, such as birth, old age, illness, death, and so on, he will have peace of mind all the time and will not need to make any effort. Otherwise he should bear in mind that the sufferings in a future life could be much more durable and long-lasting than those in this life; and the burden could also be much heavier. It is therefore of paramount importance to take steps to prepare for the next life. [Milarepa, Hts 114]
Worldly folk who anticipate old age, illness, and death, in this world, seek to evade or ameliorate the intensity and anguish by means of medical treatment. But the wealth of the rich cannot ward off the end of life anyway. [Milarepa, freely rendered. Tm 259]
Remember the "boastful talk" of this old man! If you want happiness in life, then practice the Dharma, renounce distractions, and remain in solitude. [Milarepa, Hts 116]
Milarepa survey from the 100 000 Songs
One day, Jetsun Milarepa descended from the Great Light Cave to the happy Village of Mang Yul. People of the village asked, "Are you the much-talked-about yogi Milarepa?"
He replied, "Yes, I am."
They cried in respect, "Oh, here comes the wonderful yogi!"
And a wealthy couple cried, "We would like to adopt you into our family! We have a good strip of land which we can give you; you can then marry an attractive woman, and soon you will have relatives."
Milarepa replied, "I have no need of these things, and will tell you why":
Home and land at first seem pleasant;
The married couple said, "Please do not talk like that! We will find you a fine girl from a prominent family, who is fit to be your bride and who will suit your taste. Please consider this."
At first, the lady is like a heavenly angel;
The husband then said, "Dear Lama, it is true that when one grows old and close to death he has not the same capacity for enjoying life or for being pleasant as when he was young."
Milarepa sang on:
In youth, a son is like the Prince of Heaven;
Both husband and wife agreed with him, replying, "What you have said is indeed true. Perhaps it would be better to have a daughter. What do you think?"
In answer Milarepa sang:
In youth, a daughter is like a smiling, heavenly angel; In middle age, she is good for nothing. Her parents will suffer from her bitterness and temper.
The husband and wife then said, "One may not need sons and daughters, but without relatives, life would be too miserable and helpless. Is that not so?"
Milarepa again sang:
At first, when a man greets his relatives, he is happy and joyful; with enthusiasm. He serves, entertains, and talks to them.
The couple then said, "Indeed, you may not need kinsmen. However, since we own a great deal of property, would you like to have and take care of it?"
Milarepa then burst into another song:
Wealth, at first, leads to self-enjoyment,
He did not have plenty of appetite.
[Source of this section: Hts 119-22, passim]
Jetsyn greeting an old woman
In a large field Jetsyn came across a very beautiful girl, about fifteen years old. He went up to her , and she kindly invited him to her house, pointing, "It is over there. Wait for me at the door. I will come directly."
Accordingly, Milarepa went to her home, pushed the door open with his staff, and went in. At once an ugly old woman with a handful of ashes rushed at him, shouting, "You miserable yogi-beggars! In the summer you all show up begging for milk and butter! In the winter you all come for grain! I'll wager you wanted to sneak in to steal my daughter's and daughter-in-law's jewelry!"
Grumbling and trembling with rage, she was about to throw the ashes at Milarepa, when he said, "Wait a minute, Grandmother! Please listen to me!"
He then sang:
Grandmother, you are an angry woman,
Upon hearing this profound, melodious song, the old woman was so moved that she regretted what she had done to the Jetsun, and could not help shedding tears. [139-39, passim, and slightly modified.]
Becoming old suggests not caring for all and wanting to sleep more and better
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time. [Sir J. Lubbock]
A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age. [Robert Frost]
A test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members. [Cf. Pearl S. Buck]
A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded emotional maturity [Cf. Sigmund Freud]
Great, common confusions dissolve as the mind matures. [Cf. Guggenheimer]
After a man passes sixty, his mischief is mainly in his head. [Edgar Watson Howe]
Age does not make us childish, as some say; it finds us true children. [Johann Wolfgang von Goethe]
Birthdays will be good for you; the more you have, the longer you live.
To be mature means not to evade every crisis that comes along. [Cf. Fritz Kunkel]
Fifty is the youth of old age. [Victor Hugo]
The surest measure of a man's or a woman's maturity is the harmony, style, joy, and dignity he creates in his marriage, and the pleasure and inspiration he provides for his spouse. [Benjamin Spock (1903-1998)]
Every human has to leave the good old security, and go out to do a job and fight for a new and preferably better home and fit surroundings. One needs to have the courage to do it.
He who is of calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden. [Plato, The Republic]
What usually happens in the educational process is that the faculties are dulled, overloaded, stuffed and paralyzed so that by the time most people are mature they have lost their innate capabilities. [R. Buckminster Fuller]
I see no comfort in . . . remaining a mere monument of the times which are past. [Thomas Jefferson]
In youth we run into difficulties. In old age difficulties run into us. [Beverly Sills (b.1929)]
Maturity: The exchange of youth, fun and happiness for slippers, a pipe and the false appearance of wisdom. [From Stuart Mcfarlane]
Middle Age: When you begin to exchange your emotions for symptoms. [Georges Clemenceau]
Not a few get wise too late.
The longer I live the more senseless life becomes.
The secret of staying young at heart as you get old is to live honestly, eat enough food and never give up all.
Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for my posterity. [Thomas Jefferson]
We grow old because we stop playing! [George Bernard Shaw]
When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am 50, I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things - including the fear of childishness and the desire to be grown-up. [Clives Staples Lewis]
Whenever a man's friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old. [Washington Irving]
You know you're getting old when everything hurts. And what doesn't hurt doesn't work. [Hy Gardner]
Beware of the young doctor and the old barber. [Benjamin Franklin]
Being slow to believe is fine for maturing on. Go right on cooking.
I'm at an age when my back goes out more than I do. [Phyllis Diller]
In my old age I stress order. I have made the great discovery that liberty is a product of order. [Will Durant]
Maturity is the ability to think, speak and act your feelings within the bounds of dignity. The measure of your maturity is how spiritual you become in the middle of frustrations. [Source unknown]
Can plastic surgery, or the 'face-lift,' really make a miserable old woman happy? [Garma C. C. Chang, Hts x]
Old age is not so bad when you consider the alternatives. [Maurice Chevalier, attributed]
On the bright side of life you will probably save a lot on shampoo when getting old and bald, and no longer have to suffer from thwarted and long gone ambitions.
Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples. [George Burns]
Sure I'm for helping the elderly. I'm going to be old myself some day. [Lillian Carter in her 80s]
The limits of life grow more evident; it becomes clear that great work can be done rarely, if at all. [Alfred Adler]
Time . . . gives us the same train and turn of thought that elder people have in vain tried to put into our heads before. [Jonathan Swift]
We pay when old for the excesses of youth. [J. B. Priestley]
Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late. Old age and sickness bring out the essential characteristics of a man. [Felix Frankfurter]
One takes far less pleasure in reading books as one matures
Little by little old age renders the body less powerful. [Cf. Cicero]
Live your life and forget your age. [Norman Vincent Peale]
One of the advantages of aging is losing obsession about work and being able to spend some more time with your family. [Cf. Clint Eastwood]
Some things can be achieved by reflection, force of character, and judgment; in these qualities old age is usually not only not poorer, but is even richer. [Marcus Tullius Cicero, mod. ]
There are no great pleasure on earth that seem worth sacrificing for the sake of an extra five years in the geriatric ward of the Sunset Old People's Home, Weston-Super-Mare. [See Horace Rumpole]
Age appears best in four things: old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read. [Sir Francis Bacon]
Maturity is knowing when to be immature. [Randall Hall]
Each year it grows harder to make ends meet - the ends I refer to are hands and feet. [Richard Armour]
Retirement from life is followed by some judgement of life
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. [Pablo Picasso]
Be nice to those younger than you, they are the ones who will be writing about you. [With Cyril Connolly]
When old, retire from work, but not from life. [Cf. M.K. Soni]
The mature mind seeks to follow through. [Harry A. Overstreet]
I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity. [Albert Einstein]
It can be sad to grow old but nice to ripen. [With Brigitte Bardot]
To some, Middle age is Father Time catching up with Mother Nature. [Cf. Harold Coffin]
The superficiality of many is a result of deep fears. It takes spare time to think things out; it takes free time to mature. People in a hurry may not think well or mature well. The next best is a state of perpetual puerility. [Cf. Eric Hoffer]
Retire in time to experience some more of what life has to offer, take time to smell the flowers, and endure a hobby or three, including cookery.
By the time we get fifty, we have found out that some things are really important.
A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. [John Barrymore]
About some delicate woman: best tunes are played on very old fiddles. [Cf. Sigmund Z. Engel]
Growth or maturity should be an ever-present process. [With John Dewey]
Age . . . I thought it was a quiet time. . . . I grow more intense as I age. [Florida Scott-Maxwell]
Age considers; youth ventures. [Rabindranath Tagore]
Retirement - now life begins. [Catherine Pulsifer]
Man matures through work which inspires him to difficult good. [Pope John Paul II]
One purpose of life is to fight grossness.
If you're telling me I'm not mature, that's one thing I don't cry over since as far as I can make out it's the same thing as being dead. [John Updike]
Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. [Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)]
Maturity consists in no longer being taken in by oneself. [Kajetan Von Schlaggenberg]
Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough. [Groucho Marx (1890 - 1977)]
The French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, "In that case there is no time to lose. Plant it this afternoon!" [Unknown]
At 20 years of age the will reigns; at 30 the wit; at 40 the judgment [Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard's Almanac]
Emotional balance is a good sign of a mature man.
Maturity of mind consists in enduring some uncertainty.
Among all my patients in the second half of life ... there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. [Carl G. Jung]
As a man grows older it is harder and harder to frighten him. [Jean Paul Richter]
By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong. [Wadsworth, Dr Charles]
The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of childhood into maturity [Thomas Henry Huxley]
Maturity has little to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated.
By the time you're eighty years old you've learned everything. You only have to remember it. [George Burns]
Twenty-four years running wild; twenty-four years a mature man - after that, researching, perhaps
As you grow older, you stand for more and fall for less. [Unknown]
First you forget names, then you forget faces, then you forget to pull your zipper up, then you forget to pull your zipper down. [Leo Rosenberg]
Great potential for growth and self-realisation exists in the second half of life too. [Cf. Carl Jung]
He's so old that when he orders a three-minute egg, they ask for the money up front. [Milton Berle]
I am long on ideas, but short on time. I expect to live to be only about a hundred. [Thomas Alva Edison]
Men fail to live life worthily, but think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure. [With Henry David Thoreau]
Old age is an excellent time for outrage. [Maggie Kuhn]
The mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for a decent cause. [With Jerome David Salinger]
Time and Tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of thirty. [Robert Frost]
We grow old or cold by deserting out ideals. And to give up enthusiasm stiffens the soul.
Why don't somebody wake up to the beauty of old women? [Harriet Beecher Stowe]
You can only be young once, but you can be immature forever. [Unknown]
Everyone is the age of their heart. [Guatemalan proverb]
I hope I never get so old I get religious. [Ingmar Bergman]
I refuse to admit I'm more than fifty-two, even if that does make my sons illegitimate. [Lady Nancy Astor]
If I'd known I was going to live this long (100 years), I'd have taken better care of myself. [Ubie Blake]
If we could be twice young and twice old we could correct all our mistakes. [Euripides]
In autumn and winter we stand by the old; reformers in the morning, conservers at night. [Ralph Waldo Emerson]
Judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a great new idea. [Cf. Pearl S. Buck]
Many use their youth to make their old age miserable [Unknown]
Maturity is different from using your ailing health to blackmail your children into doing all your gardening and housework and keeping a diary for comfort and a handy reminder of what you did yesterday.
None so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm. [Henry David Thoreau]
Old age is fifteen years older than I am. [Oliver Wendell Holmes (also attributed to Bernard Baruch in slightly different form)]
Old places and old persons in their turn, when spirit dwells in them, have an intrinsic vitality of which youth is incapable, precisely, the balance and wisdom that come from long perspectives and broad foundations. [George Santayana]
One of the many things nobody ever tells you about middle age is that it's such a nice change from being young. [Dorothy Canfield Fisher]
People ask me what I'd most appreciate getting for my eighty-seventh birthday. I tell them, a paternity suit. [George Burns]
Some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age. [C.E.M. Joad]
The assumption that aging means decline and poor health is probably not good at all. [T. Kinnes.]
The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. [Frank Lloyd Wright (1869 - 1959)]
There are compensations for growing older. One is the realization that to be sporting isn't at all necessary. It is a great relief to reach this stage of wisdom. [Cornelius Otis Skinner]
Though an old man I am but a young gardener. [Thomas Jefferson]
To me, old age is 16 years older than I am.
We do not count a man's years until he has nothing else to count. [Ralph Waldo Emerson]
Show me a man with both feet on the ground and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants on. [Joe E. Lewis]
We spend our lives on the run: we get up by the clock, eat and sleep by the clock, get up again, go to work - and then we retire. And what do they give us? A bloody clock. [Dave Allen]
We've put more effort into helping folks reach old age than into helping them enjoy it. [Frank Clark]
When the amour is yet untouched by tragedy, one is far from old.
When your narrow waist and broad mind exchange places, look out!
You're old enough when you can read about yourself in books.
Your body changes, but you don't change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion. [Doris Lessing]
Your fifties are mature, reliable and dependable - or boring, predictable and conventional.
Middle age is the time when a man is always thinking in a week or two he will feel as good as ever. [Don Marquis]
Middle age is when a guy keeps turning off lights for economical rather than romantic reasons. [Eli Cass]
Old age is when the liver spots show through your gloves. [Phyllis Diller]
One keeps on forgetting old age up to the very brink of the grave. [Colette]
People like you and I . . . never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born. [Albert Einstein in a letter to Otto Juliusburger]
The deepest definition of old age is impending tragedy. [Cf. Alfred North Whitehead]
To keep cheerful well enough - that is to triumph over old age in part. [Cf. Thomas Bailey Aldrich]
To live without great fear could be a good sign of maturity.
Becoming old suggests one takes far less pleasure in getting older -
After watching Cary Grant [Archibald Leach] on a television broadcast, his mother, then in her nineties, reprimanded him for letting his hair get so grey.
"It doesn't bother me," the actor replied carelessly.
"Maybe not," said his mother, "but it bothers me. It makes me seem so old."
Ebd: Holder, John J, tr. and ed. Early Buddhist Discourses. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006.
Hts: The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, tr. Garma C. C. Chang. London: Shambala, 1999.
Ib: Bodhi, Bhikkhu, ed. In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2005.
Ld: Walshe, Maurice, tr. The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995.
Tm: Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling, ed. Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.
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