It was a couple of days after the election, and I ran into a friend walking on the river trail. Being disappointed in the election outcome, we said things like, “I’ve been here before,” “I felt like this in 2000” and “We can get through this.”
I walked on and realized that these were words of aging and experience from women who have been around for a while and have lived through lots of challenges, sadness and disappointments. We are seasoned. This was our wisdom speaking.
There are some positive aspects of aging. Our senses are more finely tuned. Things seem to turn out, even though we don’t always think so in the moment. We have better coping mechanisms and can deal better with hardships. Our experience puts things into perspective, and we can discern what is really important.
A 79-year-old friend of mine tells me she is doing more of what she wants to do, rather than what she needs to do. She’s trying more things and is not afraid of failure; she’s already done her life, she says. We are more comfortable with ourselves and don’t take ourselves so seriously. We’re also able to choose more who and what we want to include in our lives.
Many of us are wanting less. Life seems easier the simpler it is. There is a certain letting-go – of criticism, judgment, being right, telling people what to do. More empathy. I sometimes feel we’re all in this aging thing together and doing the best we can. Compassion, sensitivity, tolerance.
We have a guaranteed minimum income from Social Security and basic health care from Medicare (for now, anyway). Senior discounts sometimes help, too.
There is more gratitude for me. Not everyone grows old, and most of us are blessed with fairly good lives, people who love us and unlimited surrounding beauty.
Older people often have a sense of pride that comes from our accomplishments: raising a family, having a successful marriage, retiring from work that was interesting and fulfilling. These can be the foundation of a pleasant contentment as we age.
Time is a paradox. We have more time to be with family and friends, and to participate in pursing dreams we never had time for before. More time to volunteer and give back to our families and/or community. Yet our time is also becoming limited. Aging, hopefully, makes us realize that this is our life right now. We are in it! Plans for later don’t always happen. Each day becomes precious. And, here is gratitude again.
So here’s to 2017, and may we live each day to the fullest. Let’s try to be open to new possibilities, accepting of what is, and be joyful and generous to everyone.
Martha McClellan was a developmental educator in early childhood for 38 years. She has moved her focus now to the other end of life and has written a book, The Aging Athlete: What We Do to Stay in the Game. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.