I write to learn. I feel that if I can write about something, I really know it. My Patient Parenting columns have always been about a topic I’ve been interested in or a suggestion or request someone has given me. I think about the topic for several days, decide just how I want to focus on it and then research, talk to other people and see what I can find out and how I feel about it.
In the nine years of writing Patient Parenting, I’ve covered everything from mothers to language to pinching to musical brains to toilet training and beyond, and truly enjoyed it. However, my interests are changing now, from early childhood to late adulthood, of which I find myself a member. There are many of us in our 60s, 70s and 80s who are finding ourselves wanting to relate our changes, feelings and shifts to others to help us clarify the transitions that are happening, whether we welcome them or not. Some groups have formed with focuses on conscious aging, the Buddhist perspective on end-of-life, Compassionate Choices, etc. There seems to be a great need for us to gather and share.
I am finding myself increasingly fascinated with my own aging and the great movement I feel part of to do it differently than our parents did. I want to be more present with my aging instead of denying it. I want to become more authentic in myself so I can enjoy these last years, however many there may be. We seem to have fewer responsibilities, such as parenting and working, and more time to open to what we love doing now. This feels freer and more true to me now.
Patient Parenting is transitioning into Authentic Aging starting next month. I’m not sure where this learning will take me, but I feel the conversation has already started. Why not share with readers what we are doing, thinking and learning as our focus changes to this last quarter of our lives? There are no road maps out there of how to proceed, so possibly this new column will help others create their own.
I want to concentrate on the more internal aspects of aging vs. the external ones. Anyone can find out how to write a living will, but have we thought about our personal legacies, our regrets and resentments, our unfolding into new territory as we age? Have we been able to accept the aches and pains, the weakening of our muscles, the gradual decline our bodies are experiencing? What are the developmental stages of old age? How have our childhood ideas and experiences of old people affected our attitudes on our own aging? Do we have any idea of how we actually want to die?
Baby boomers have always been on the forefront of doing things differently. Why should aging be any different? We redefined music, sex and consciousness in the ’60s, and now we are looking again at how to make this stage of life more authentic. I have titled the column Authentic Aging because I think many of us are trying to accept our aging in a real-as-possible way, with grace and gratitude. The stereotypes of older people are just not true anymore: We have not turned ourselves out to pasture.
There were seven women in my “over 60” age group in a recent swimming race. I see athletic seniors all over town, running, kayaking, biking, etc., but also running organizations, writing books, participating in government, performing at various venues: We are a strong part of this community.
We are trying to live our lives fully, even though our muscles aren’t as strong. We may be a bit more thoughtful, though, experience does count! We are more seasoned in life, have better perspectives on just about everything (except maybe technology) and this is a great advantage.
I hope to get some of these issues out there and start more of a dialogue about aging well. I’m hoping this will strike a chord and we can explore this with each other. Please get in touch with suggestions, ideas and comments – we are all in this together!
Martha McClellan has been a developmental educator in early childhood for 38 years. She has moved her focus now to the other end of life, and has written the book, The Aging Athlete: What We Do to Stay in the Game. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org