This is a revision of an older blog post that is still just as relevant as when I wrote it and appropriate for Older Americans Month.
As a person in my sixties 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.
The first time a doctor gave me the “as we get older” speech I just sat there in disbelief. I normally would have reacted with anger. However this time I felt a smile coming over my face because explaining away that nasty looking spot on my leg that seemed to appear from nowhere and I was concerned might be a spider bite with “As we get older” was just so ridiculous. While I was checking out I looked at Bob and said, “He didn’t have to say those four hateful words — as we grow older.” The receptionist laughed and said, “it happens to all of us.” But does it have to? Really?
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 grow older speech into something positive. Instead of talking about what we lose as we grow older, let’s talk about what we gain.
- Wisdom — Hopefully we have learned the lessons of life experience and now know how to do things better, easier and with less drama.
- Time — The time to do what we want, rather than what society demands of us. Time to pursue our passion, begin a hobby, learn a new skill even reinvent ourselves if we want.
- Service — Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves we can use our time skills, abilities and wisdom to be of service to others.
- Endurance — Looking back on times we thought we couldn’t survive but did give us strength and hope that we can continue to not only survive, but endure and even thrive.
- Awareness of what is really important — This is the time when we can stop running after things that don’t last and seek that which endures over time. We can focus less on accumulating things and more on creating memories, both for ourselves and those we love.
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. Let’s recognize this and change that “As we Grow Older” speech into a message of hope and strength.