As a person rapidly approaching 60 I believe the biggest obstacles we face as we grow older are the negative perceptions surrounding age and aging. I live in an area that is a popular place to retire. Popular topics of conversation include ailments, procedures and how bad it is to get old. The most popular area of Walmart is the pharmacy with what sometimes seems like a never ending line. Depression, alcoholism and feelings of worthlessness over no longer being able or allowed to work are much more prevalent among the “elder” population than I had ever imagined.
I recently and reluctantly visited my doctor for a sudden and mysterious problem with my knee. He ended up giving me the “as we get older” speech. This was the first time a doctor had ever said that to me indicating they were not going to look for the cause of a problem. I normally would have reacted with anger, but I sat there in disbelief feeling a smile come over my face. While I was checking out I looked at Bob and said, “He didn’t have to say those four hateful words — as we get older.” The receptionist laughed and said, “it happens to all of us.”
But I know, and I suspect you do too, that a steady decline to the grave is not all we have to look forward to as we grow older. I do not believe it is inevitable. In fact, the belief that there is nothing we can do but watch it happen is foreign to me. Members of my family have lived happy, healthy, active and independent lives well into their 80’s and 90’s.
Believing that it is not what happens to us, but our attitudes, beliefs and perceptions about what happens that matters, let’s try flipping the as we get older speech into something positive. Instead of talking about what we lose as we get older, let’s talk about what we gain.
- The time to do what we want, rather than what society demands of us. Now we can take that trip we always dreamed of, learn a new skill, take up a new hobby, change your life. Now that “working” to earn money is not as important, we can focus on the spiritual. We can take back the time and energy we gave to the world and give it to the Divine.
- We are able to look back on times we thought we couldn’t survive and see that we did. This can give us a sense of hope and reassurance that we are resilient and we are survivors.
- We gain an awareness of what is really important in life and what endures over time. People and experiences become more important to us than things as we get older.
- And finally, we do achieve wisdom gained through life experience. At 20 we think we know everything, at 60 if we are truthful, we realize we don’t.
We sometimes need help realizing that these are positive things. They are also not things we have to go searching after trying to acquire. We already have them.