Growing old with grace

I was reading about a study that examined old age in the animal kingdom. Next to the online story was an ad promising septuagenarians the body of a twenty-something year old. I won’t link the ad here, but it shows a 72 year-old "doctor" with no shirt, looking like an Olympic gymnast.

Whether or not the ad and the product are legitimate—which I doubt—the irony of its placement next to a story about the reality of biological aging is telling.

We live in a world of material impermanence. Life especially comes and goes. According to a story in Science Blogs, Wild animals age, too, this is news in the scientific world. Here's part of the story:

Until now, the scientific community had assumed that wild animals died before they got old. Now, a Spanish-Mexican research team has for the first time demonstrated ageing in a population of wild birds (Sula nebouxii) in terms of their ability to live and reproduce.
“It was always thought that senescence was something particular to humans and domestic animals, because we have an extended life expectancy”, Alberto Velando, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Ecology and Animal Biology Department of the University of Vigo, tells SINC.
However, the idea that wild animals are killed off by predators or parasites before showing signs of ageing has changed “totally” in recent years: “Senescence exists in wild animals’ reproduction and living capacity”, confirms Velando.
The study, which has been published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, used a database stretching back over 30 years to study a population of the blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii), long-lived birds that inhabit the Pacific coasts of Mexico, the Galapagos Islands and Peru, to determine their ageing patterns.
The results show for the first time that their germline (the DNA sequence passed from one generation to the next) is not damage-free. “The DNA of the sperm of older individuals is damaged. This means their offspring have a greater likelihood of suffering from congenital illnesses”, the biologist explains.
Get that? According to this study, creatures reproduce best at specific, younger ages. And so when moral theologians weigh the desire of the current age to have fun, use artificial birth control, and then wait till later in life to reproduce, they have a scientific study offering biological proof why this isn’t a good idea.

Moreover, this study offers a wakeup call to a culture obsessed with youth and the desire for a beautiful, unending pain-free life. Apparently, such a wish runs counter to the order of this fallen world.

Perhaps, then, we might wish to re-orient our priorities to the natural order, grow old with grace—God’s grace, preferably—and remember that it is God alone that promises us eternal life. Hence, the powerful passages of Genesis, Ezekiel, and the New Testament.

Once again, God’s revealed truths show up in the natural sciences. And again, theology and biology find themselves singing the same, wonderful song of life, loss and promise.

And while we're on the topic, how about offering a prayer for the elderly of the world, especially those suffering with no one in their lives to care or pray for them:

Lord Jesus Christ, you heard the prayers of your two disciples at Emmaus and stayed with them at eventide. Stay, we pray you, with all your people in the evening of their life. Make yourself known to them, and let your light shine upon their path; and whenever they pass through the valley of the shadow of death, be with them to the end. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.