Years ago I said to myself: “There’s no such thing as old age, there is only sorrow.”
I have learned with the passing of time that this, though true, is not the whole truth. The other producer of old age is habit: the deathly process of doing the same thing in the same way at the same hour day after day, first from carelessness, then from inclination, at last from cowardice or inertia. Luckily the inconsequent life is not the only alternative; for caprice is as ruinous as routine. Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits; of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive.
In spite of illness, in spite of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways. In the course of sorting and setting down of my memories I have learned that these advantages are usually independent of one’s efforts, and that I probably owe my happy old age to the ancestor who accidentally endowed me with these qualities.
—A Backward Glance by Edith Wharton