The stirring refrain "Do you hear the people sing?" is my favourite Les Mis song.
It depicts the revolutionary fervor of young idealists manning the barricades. Definitely not the sort of street-cred activism you'd expect from those of senior years.
But many baby boomers are rebelling - they are putting in a mental protest against what some have called the tyranny of aging. Recent research showed 41% of the over-50s anticipate "their golden years" will include "good health".
One of the boomer generation's great bands, The Who, famously sang "Hope I die before I get old". Yet Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are energetically performing that song in what should be their retirement years. Many of their contemporaries are still going strong too, with global touring schedules that undermine the assumption that aging is for the docile!
Whether or not we expect to be rocking in the aisles in our seventies and eighties, there are thought-provoking exceptions to the "rule" that says we need to resign ourselves to the inevitability of unhealthy senior years. Here are a handful of such examples.
1. Free as a bird. The Guillemot is a bird that is expert at coping with the senior years. Recent findings report that these seabirds "expend substantial energy for diving" and they ought to "deteriorate" as they get older. Instead, they have a long life and "maintain their energetic lifestyle in a very extreme environment into old age" said study lead author, Kyle Elliott of the University of Manitoba.
2. Born to run. What if you love running so much that you "blaze through the canyons like dolphins rocketing through waves"...into your nineties! That's how former Associated Press reporter Christopher McDougall describes a tribe of indigenous Mexicans who produce "90-year-old men running across mountaintops". His book pinpoints the joy of the Tarahumara Indians, explaining "they're having a blast...they remember what it's like to love running" - even distances of 200 miles or more at a time.
3. The green, green grass of home. A Greek war veteran took the idea of returning to the homestead to heart. Given nine months to live, he decided to forego "aggressive cancer treatment" in America and spend his "last days" on the island of his birth which has a track-record of good health well into old age. Three decades on the 97-year old is very much alive and cancer-free. As the New York Times put it: "He never went through chemotherapy, took drugs or sought therapy of any sort. All he did was move home to Ikaria."
Highlighting the difference in attitudes between Ikaria and the kind of city life the veteran had left behind, a local doctor said: "It's not a 'me' place. It's an 'us' place."
4.All you need is love. A clinician recently reported how two Christians came under her care who "were at the end of their lives, had been very healthy up until recently and had received close to no medical care for nearly nine decades."
Noting that one of them was a Christian Scientist, she added: "I have had other Christian Science patients in the past, of great age, and am very curious about what draws them to it and how they weave it into their very healthy lives."
As a Christian Scientist myself I can say that what first "draws" many of us to this drug-free healthcare approach is the hope of healing disease, rather than just managing it. But those finding it effective soon do "weave" it into the fabric of their lives as a daily spiritual practice.
Not all who practice Christian Science reach a ripe old age, or do so without facing difficulties. But many find the ideas of founder Mary Baker Eddy offer a thoughtful, spiritual basis for rebelling against limiting thinking, including the beliefs of aging. Her writings explain the healing love Jesus articulated and lived and explain how we always have access to that divine love irrespective of the number of years we might have notched up.
Wherever we are on the age spectrum it's never too soon - or too late - to take a mental stand against the presumption that increasing years and armchair decrepitude have to go hand in hand.
We can spiritually challenge the inevitability of lengthening shadows filling our twilight years.