Plato suggests the age of fifty to be a suitable turning point for a man to pass over from mere experience of life to constant meditation upon the higher purpose of life. Cephalus, the patriarch in Plato's Republic, was glad to be free from the lusts of youth, which he denounced as tyrannical, and to be in the state of relative peace which, he asserted, comes with old age.
Youth cries out for romance and love. The silencing of that cry naturally and properly belongs to age. Yet it seems a pity that this early enthusiasm and tumultuous energy, which could in most cases partially and in some cases even wholly be devoted to the quest, should not be so used.
Youth is progressive, age is conservative. Both tendencies are needed, but they are not needed in equal proportions. Sometimes the one should be emphasized more weightily, sometimes the other.
Those who have reached the middle years are likely to know more about life than those who have not. They are certainly more capable of sustaining attention and concentration than callow youths. Hence they are better able to receive the truth and to accept the value of philosophy than the young. Old age ought to become the tranquil period which ruminates over the folly and wisdom of its memories; it is to reflect upon, and study well, the lessons garnered from experience.
Why is it that elderly persons tend to become more religious as well as more sickly than younger ones? All the usual answers may be quite correct on their own levels, but there is one on another and deeper level which is the ultimate answer. The life-energy of the Overself flowing into and pervading the physical body begins, in middle age, a reaction toward its source. The individual's resistance to the attack of disease is consequently less than it was before. His interest in and attraction to the objects of physical desires begin to grow less, too, while the force that went into them now begins to go toward the Overself. When this reversal expresses itself in its simplest form, the individual becomes religious. When the energy ceases to pervade the body, death follows.
-- Notebooks Category 13: Human Experience > Chapter 3: Youth and Age > # 135