“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” ~ Douglas MacArthur
On my radio show this week, my guest spoke about Encore Careers and Lifelong Learning. As a University Professor who teaches graduate and doctoral students, as well as Baby Boomers and emerging seniors, he reinforced that aging is relative and often subject to one’s own limiting beliefs and feelings. While we are all aging, it doesn’t have the same meaning for each of us.
There are valuable insights to absorb and wonderful experiences to savor at each life stage. Every new decade and every new year brings with it wisdom, transformation, and growth, as well as ends and beginnings. Many people, though, believe that there is one age that eclipses the others. They expend energy trying to reach it and, once it has passed, trying to retain it.
But wishing to be younger or older is a denial of the joys that have been and the joys yet to be, as well as the beauty of your life in the present. Holding on to one age can make it difficult to appreciate each new milestone you reach. Taking pleasure in the delights of your age, whether you are in your 20s, 40s, 60s, or 80s, can help you see the magnificence and usefulness of the complex seasons of life.
Think about it… each new year brings the potential for exciting and unfamiliar experiences. In our 20s we can embrace the energy of youth and the learning process, knowing it’s okay to not have all the answers. As we move through our third decade, we grow more self-assured as the confusion of our young adulthood melts away. We can honor these years by putting aside our fears of aging and concentrating instead on solidifying our values and enjoying our growing emotional maturity.
In our 40s, we become conscious of the wisdom we have attained through life experience and are blessed with the ability to put it to good use. We are not afraid to explore unfamiliar territory or to change. In our 50s, we tend to have successfully navigated our midlife re-evaluations and have prioritized our lives. In the decades beyond, we discover a greater sense of freedom than we have ever known and can truly enjoy the memory of all we have seen and done.
Aging, however, is about much more than staying physically healthy – it’s about maintaining your sense of purpose and your zest for life. Healthy aging means continually reinventing yourself, finding new things you enjoy, learning to adapt to change, staying socially active, and feeling connected to your community.
Here are three tips to keep in mind as you age:
- Don’t fall for the myth that aging automatically means you’re not going to feel good anymore. It is true that aging involves physical changes, but it doesn’t have to mean discomfort or disability. While not all illness and pain is avoidable, many of the physical challenges associated with aging can be overcome or significantly mitigated by eating right, exercising, and taking care of yourself.
- Many aging adults don’t exercise. Yet exercise is vital for healthy aging. It helps you maintain your strength and agility, gives your mental health a boost, and can even diminish chronic pain. Regular exercise will help you stay physically and mentally healthy and improve your confidence.
- As you age, your life will change and you will lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life purpose. But this is not a time to stop moving forward. Later life can be a time of exciting new adventures if you let it. If you’re not sure where to get started, try these suggestions: go on a weekend trip to a place you’ve never visited; pick up a long-neglected hobby; take a class or join a club or; learn something new (an instrument, a foreign language, etc.).
Try to enjoy the age you are at now, for each age presents its own unique wisdom to enjoy. Today is my niece and god-daughter’s birthday. Happy 21st, Grace!