Coming of Age – Volwassenheid

You know you’re getting old when you meet several people in quick succession where you think: ‘(S)he was only born in 1984 or 1990’, ‘(S)he doesn’t know that cartoon/movie/music?’ and ‘Why do I feel I’m the only one here whose DOB starts with 196..?’

Anyway, today is the International Day of Older Persons.

I’m pretty sure you didn’t know that. I’d also be very impressed if you knew that we’ve had World Assemblies on Ageing….. Well, did you? The latest one was in 2002.

I read up on this, so a tiny bit of history first (quite appropriate actually since older people are like living history books, full of good stories). In 1992 the UN’s General Assembly adopted the Proclamation on Ageing. It states: “in recognition of humanity’s demographic coming of age and the promise it holds for maturing attitudes and capabilities in social, economic, cultural and spiritual undertakings, not least for global peace and development in the next century”.

Sounds familiar, sort of, if you’re a Baha’i (like me). Well, read this:

“The principle of human oneness strikes a chord in the deepest reaches of the human spirit. It is not yet another way of talking about the ideal of brotherhood or solidarity. Nor is it some vague hope or slogan. It reflects, rather, an eternal spiritual, moral and physical reality that has been brought into focus by humanity’s collective coming of age in the twentieth century. Its emergence is more visible now because, for the first time in history, it has become possible for all of the peoples of the world to perceive their interdependence and to become conscious of their wholeness.

That quotation is from 2001 from the Baha’i International Community. Here is another one, this time from The World Order of Baha’u’llah by Shoghi Effendi:

The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, whose supreme mission is none other but the achievement of this organic and spiritual unity of the whole body of nations, should, if we be faithful to its implications, be regarded as signalizing through its advent the coming of age of the entire human race. It should be viewed not merely as yet another spiritual revival in the ever-changing fortunes of mankind, not only as a further stage in a chain of progressive Revelations, nor even as the culmination of one of a series of recurrent prophetic cycles, but rather as marking the last and highest stage in the stupendous evolution of man’s collective life on this planet. The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship, the founding of a world civilization and culture — all of which must synchronize with the initial stages in the unfoldment of the Golden Age of the Bahá’í Era — should, by their very nature, be regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits in the organization of human society, though man, as an individual, will, nay must indeed as a result of such a consummation, continue indefinitely to progress and develop.”

Going back to the UN……

1999 was the International Year of Older Persons and its theme was ‘Towards a Society for All Ages’.

Old man and grandson (5K)

The UN’s website says: This ‘society for all ages’ is a society where “…every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play”. By integrating ‘age’ into a ‘sciety for all’, the approach becomes multigenerational and holistic, whereby “generations invest in one another and share the fruits of that investment, guided by the twin principles of reciprocity and equity”.

And that UN statement reminds me of this one:

Youth also take part in the life of the Bahá’í community as a whole and promote a society in which all generations elderly, middle-aged, youth, children are fully integrated and make up an organic whole. By refusing to carry over the antagonisms and mistrust between the generations which perplex and bedevil modern society, they will again demonstrate the healing and life-giving nature of their religion.

The above statement was written in a letter on 10 June 1966 from the Universal House of Justice to the youth in every land. You can find it on p. 96 in Wellspring of Guidance, Messages 1963-1968.

I’ve highlighted the sentence I really like and I don’t mind considering myself a youth in this respect!

Just a final thought. The UN Principles adopted in 1999 focus on independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity of older people. I’m sure we all want those principles applied in our own lives when we grow old. Please let’s remember that when we interact with those older than ourselves.


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