Don’t worry, it’s just a cartoon! BUT … living a long, happy, healthy life and gaining that 20-year advantage doesn’t mean you’ll be living like your 50- or 60-year old self until you drop. There is this thing called the aging process and, remember, it’s only the privileged who get to enjoy that phase of life. The rest don’t make it!
So, if you’re there now (like me), embrace it. If you’re not there yet, then a little advice may prove useful. Call it food for thought, or maybe “How to be ready for aging without really trying”.
I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that there are three phases of these so-called golden years: go-go, go-slow, and no-go. In other words, slowly but surely physical (and sometimes mental) limitations creep in. Slower for some than for others, but it’s inevitable. A successful transition to this new reality requires some self-reinvention. But don’t worry, there are so many things you can do as this new, reinvented you. (Sounds like Dr. Seuss!) Just don’t set yourself up for disappointment – or even despair. Recognize that if you are lucky enough to live a long life, at some point you will unlikely to be able to whiz down a ski hill anymore, or pick up a tennis racket or golf club to much effect, or eventually even travel long distances. Sorry, but it’s true. There’s a reason why there are so few entries in the 80+ group in marathons! That’s where the new you comes in.
Remember that there’s far more to who we all are than our work, and there’s more to who we all are than our sporting prowess or whatever else we can’t imagine not being part of our life. And when the traveling is winding down and we’re enjoying our favourite sports by watching the pros on TV or our grandchildren as they develop their own sporting passions, it’s time to concentrate on those interests – existing, new, and/or renewed – that fit our new lifestyle (less energy but far more time) and from which we gain pleasure and satisfaction. It should be a rewarding time of life, and it will be if you haven’t already set yourself up for failure. You don’t want to start these bonus years feeling resentful, you want to start them feeling grateful and ready to enjoy the opportunities at hand.
Advantages of being old:
- You don’t have to get up and go to work. Admit it, even if you love your work – and I did – you don’t necessarily love getting up early every morning. I sure didn’t! If you live in the Maritimes, where the sports on TV end an hour later than Eastern Time (1.5 hours later in Newfoundland), you can stay up and watch every hockey and basketball game until the bitter end.
- Sure, there are a few aches and pains, but you don’t get pimples anymore. Nor periods. Yes, there is a God!
- For most of us, we find we don’t eat as much as we used to. Think of all the money you can save on grocery bills. And if you go to a restaurant, you can bring home a doggie bag and get an extra meal, all for what used to be the cost of one meal. How good is that?!
- You no longer feel the pressure, real or imagined, to prove yourself to anyone else. You’re free to be you. You can even try sharing some of your hard-earned wisdom!
- You have the gift of time. You have the time to revive old hobbies that you had to shelve because of so many other responsibilities. Or explore new interests that you’ve always thought about, or ones you hadn’t even known existed. Read those books you’ve always been meaning to read. Join new groups. Volunteer for an organization that supports a cause dear to you. Take a nap in the afternoon! The options are endless; you’re in charge.
Advice for contentment in old age:
- Don’t isolate yourself. Even if you’re a recluse by nature, knowing that you have a friend and/or family member you can reach out to is hugely important for your mental well-being.
- Friends are golden. Heed the advice of the old song we sang in Brownies many, many decades ago: Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold. Friends and family enrich your life and your soul, just as you enrich theirs. Also, it’s a good idea to have friends who are younger than you as well as those who are contemporaries or older. Makes sense, right?!
- Acceptance of aging is key. You are the same person you’ve always been, just in a new phase of life. It has its challenges, for sure, but it also has many rewards. Don’t fight losing some of your old passions due to new limitations; instead, cherish the memories of your past experiences while embracing your new opportunities.
- You have so much to offer, a whole lifetime of experiences. Don’t forget to share your stories, especially with kids and grandchildren, including family history. They may not think to ask now, but they’ll wish they had. It’s lots of fun to share memories and to share yourself with others.
On the other hand, if none of these thoughts resonate with you, you can always fall back to playing the role of the grouchy old man (or woman). My hope is that if that’s your path, you don’t have much company; there are too many reasons to get up and greet the day with a smile. Just stay away from the news and you should be OK!
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