The destructive effects of the passage of years are observable in one's own body. As the years go by, the body, the most precious possession a human being has, goes through an irreversible process of destruction. The changes a human being experiences throughout his life are recounted in the Qur'an as follows:
It is Allah Who created you in a state of (helpless) weakness, then gave (you) strength after weakness, then, after strength, gave (you) weakness and a hoary head: He creates as He wills, and it is He who has all knowledge and power. (Surat ar-Rum: 54)
The later years of life are the times most neglected in the future plans of an adult, except in the anxious process of saving for old-age pensions. Indeed, being too close to death, people usually develop a hesitant approach to this period. When someone tries to talk about old age, others feel concerned and attempt to change this "unpleasant" topic as soon as possible. The routine of daily life is also a good way of escaping from the thought of these potentially miserable years of life. So, it is postponed until the day one inevitably meets it. No doubt, the main reason for such avoidance is the assumption that one has endless time until death comes upon one. This common misconception is described in the Qur'an:
Nay, We gave the good things of this life to these men and their fathers until life grew long for them. (Surat al-Anbiya: 44)
This mistaken idea often leads to great grief. That is simply because, no matter how old one is, the only real possessions remaining from one's past are dimly-recalled memories. One barely remembers childhood. It is even hard to recall exactly what happened during the last decade. The greatest ambitions of a young man, important decisions, and the goals to which he is most committed, all lose their significance once they are experienced and done. That is why to tell a "long" life story is a vain endeavour.
Whether a teenager or an adult, this should prompt man to make an important decision about his life. For instance, if you are forty and expect to live until your mid-sixties – and of that you have no guarantee – those remaining twenty-five years will surely pass as quickly as the preceding forty years. The same holds true even if your life is prolonged a great deal, since the remaining thirty or forty years will, likewise, pass before you even notice. This is, surely, a perpetual reminder of the true nature of this world. One day every living soul on this earth will leave this world and there is no return.
Hence, man should set aside his prejudices and be more realistic about his life. Time passes very quickly and each day brings on further physical weakness and more impaired thinking rather than fresher dynamism and a younger figure. In brief, growing old is a manifestation of man's inability to control his own body, life and destiny. Time's adverse effects on the body become visible during this period. Allah informs us about this in the following verse:
It is Allah Who creates you and takes your souls at death; and of you there are some who are sent back to a feeble age, so that they know nothing after having known (much): for Allah is All-Knowing, All-Powerful. (Surat an-Nahl: 70)
In medicine, advanced old age is also called "the second childhood". Hence, during this latter stage of life, elderly people just like children need care, since their bodily and mental functions go through certain alterations.
As one grows older, physical and spiritual characteristics pertaining to childhood become more apparent. Elderly people fail to do many tasks requiring physical strength. Changes in judgement, impaired thinking, difficulties in walking, maintaining balance and speech, impediments, memory impairment and gradual memory loss, and changes in mood or behaviour are only a few symptoms of diseases commonly seen in old age.
In short, after a certain period, people often regress to a state of childish dependency both physically and mentally.
Life both begins and ends in an infant-like state. This is evidently not a random process. It is possible that man could remain young until he dies. Yet Allah reminds man about the temporary nature of this world by making the quality of his life deteriorate at certain stages of life. This process serves as a clear reminder that life is slipping away. Allah explains this matter in the verse below:
O mankind! If you have doubt about the Resurrection, (consider) that We created you out of dust, then out of a drop, then out of a leech-like clot, then out of a morsel of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed, in order that We may manifest (Our power) to you; and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term, then We bring you out as babes, then (foster you) that you may reach your age of full strength; and some of you are called to die, and some are sent back to the feeblest old age, so that they know nothing after having known (much), and (further), you see the earth barren and lifeless, but when We pour rain down on it, it is stirred (to life), it swells, and it puts forth every kind of beautiful growth (in pairs). (Surat al-Hajj: 5)
Age-related Physical Problems
No matter how much money you have or how good your health, everyone eventually faces disabilities and other age-related complications, some of which are described below:
Skin is truly an important factor determining how somebody looks. It is an essential component of beauty. When tissue of a few square millimetres is removed, one inevitably comes across a picture which squeamish people find disturbing. This is solely because, apart from offering protection from exterior threats to the body, skin also provides a smooth and aesthetic appearance to the body. This is, no doubt, quite an important function of skin. After all, if someone assumes herself good looking, that is solely because her skin, a piece of flesh weighing in total around four and a half pounds, covers her body. Yet to one's astonishment, this is the only organ that becomes visibly damaged when one gets old.
As one grows old, skin loses its elastic structure since structural proteins making up the "skeleton" of its bottom layers become sensitive and weak. That is also why wrinkles and lines, a nightmare for many people, appear on the face. The functioning of the oil glands in the top layer of the skin slows down, causing acute dryness. In time, the body is exposed to external influences since the permeability of skin increases. As a result of this process, elderly people suffer seriously from sleeping disorders, superficial wounds, and an itch called "the itch of old age". Likewise, damage occurs to the bottom layers of the skin. Renewal of skin tissue and substance-exchange mechanisms fail to function to a great extent, preparing and laying the ground for tumours to develop.
Strength of bones is also of great importance to the human body. Efforts to achieve an erect posture rarely meet with success for old people, while it is much easier for the young. Walking with a bent posture, one loses all one's loftiness and arrogance, giving the message that one no longer has the ability to exercise control even over one's own body. Therefore, this is also a loss of one's "airs and graces".
The symptoms of ageing are not limited to these alone. Elderly people are more likely to develop loss of sensation since nerve cells cease to renew themselves after a particular age. Elderly people suffer from spatial disorientation due to weakening eyes in response to the intensity of light. This is quite important since it means a limitation of eyesight: the vividness of colours, the positions of objects, and their dimensions become blurred. These are, no doubt, difficult situations for the elderly to adapt to.
Man might never have experienced the physical destruction of ageing: he might simply have grown stronger and healthier as he grew older. Though we are not familiar with such a model, living longer might have offered unprecedented opportunities for personally and socially fulfilling lives. Time might have improved the quality of life, making it much more enjoyable than ever. Yet, the system ordained as good for mankind is one based on a declining quality of life as one grows older.
This is one more evidence of the temporary nature of this world. Allah repeatedly reminds us of this fact in the Qur'an and commands believers to think about it:
The likeness of the life of the present is as the rain which We send down from the skies: by its mingling arises the produce of the earth – which provides food for men and animals: (It grows) till the earth is clad with its golden ornaments and is decked out (in beauty): the people to whom it belongs think they have all powers of disposal over it: There reaches it Our command by night or by day, and We make it like a harvest clean-mown, as if it had not flourished only the day before! Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who reflect. (Surah Yunus: 24)
After a certain period of life during which man assumes himself to be physically and mentally strong and perceives the whole world from his own viewpoint, he suddenly goes through a period during which he loses many things he had previously enjoyed. This process is inevitable and irreversible. That is only because Allah created this world as a temporary place in which to live and made it imperfect in order that it serve as a reminder for the Hereafter.
Lessons to be Drawn from the Old Age of Celebrities
Growing old is unavoidable. Nobody, without exception, can escape it. Yet seeing celebrities becoming older has a deeper influence on us since their physical deterioration is openly observable. Witnessing the ageing of people renowned for their fame, wealth and beauty is surely a reminder of the shortness and insignificance of this life.
Every day it is possible to observe this fact from hundreds of examples around us. An intelligent, healthy and famous person, once a symbol of beauty or success, one day appears in newspapers, magazines and on television with a physical or mental disability. This is the end that almost everybody will meet. Yet celebrities hold a special place in our minds; the way they grow old and lose their charms appeals to the emotions more deeply. In the pages that follow, you will see photographs of some celebrities. Each one is the clearest evidence that no matter how beautiful, successful or young you are, the inevitable end for human beings is old age.