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The benefits of growing old

Pete Aarssen's picture
Fri, 12/29/2017 - 16:07 -- Pete Aarssen

As we are now into a new year, and the making of new years’ resolutions, I thought I’d invite all of us to make one more; to hold a healthy, better understanding of how great it is to be growing older! I recently read an article of a similar nature penned by a Registered Dietician. After reflecting on his humorous perception on aging, I thought I would offer my take on the subject. The truth is, old age is no laughing matter. Inevitably, all of us, that is ‘most of us’ privileged to grow old will eventually experience declines in our physical dexterity and mental acuity; we will also have suffered the passing of many of our loved ones, and may start to wonder whose image it is starring back at us in the mirror! On the other hand, there are ways to delay the worst consequences of old age and new, interesting activities suitable for elders becoming popularized among people with decades of prior experience! Who ever heard of Pickle ball before or Honeymoon Bridge, a card game for two persons? When elders are asked what they fear most about aging, they often say they dread the thought of losing their memory or physical independence. Few of us welcome a physical limitation or being isolated socially. In general, we all know what probable, personal circumstances approach us as we age but can’t imagine that we will individually have to endure what we see happening to the elders in our midst. I’m going to give it a name, many of us suffer from elder-phobia; the fear of getting old ourselves. Well, buckle up because it most definitely is the inevitable destiny for the great majority of us.

Rather than simply quipping; ‘I guess the alternative could be worse’, we should be celebrating the good things about getting older. Our take on aging usually depends on how much we value longevity and are valued ourselves by others. In my case, being interested in participating in the future experiences of my grown children and grandchildren, and embracing my Faith beliefs, I resist being drawn into using a reduced quality of life as an excuse to ever contemplating ‘packing it all in’ at some future grave moment. That kind of outlook ignores so much that can be done to minimize the challenges of even a greatly reduced quality of life. Let’s not be naïve, there are some near end of life situations that are regrettably very, very bleak yet they number so few among our aging elders, we needn’t expect those circumstances to become our own.

As we age; become more forgetful; our keys misplaced more often; our recall of the names of familiar people more elusive, we start to imagine confronting old age. We can use these ‘senior moments’ as a signal to explore ways to cope with the natural challenges to longevity.

For example, repurposing our old photo albums into newer ones can be an enjoyable activity; revisiting yester-year and assisting our memory and physical dexterity. We can become reacquainted with past experiences and make new resolutions to contact someone in our past we have neglected to contact.

While there are notable and obvious downsides to aging, who among us can eliminate them? If we embrace a new take on some old subjects like; personal fitness, healthy eating, exercise as we age, money management, travel or the pursuit of social activities in our area, we will find our metal attitude towards aging restored, regardless of our physical state. Many elders enjoy reading, even if its just the news. This single activity helps mental acuity as can the taking of a course in a new language, a new skill or enrolling in music classes. Studies report active elders have much higher perceived self-worth, better emotional satisfaction and attitude towards aging than people twenty to thirty years younger. With old age often comes a more balanced acceptance for what events we can control or not, increased wisdom!

Finally, a positive attitude also scientifically aids our life expectancy. Elders most often regard life as precious; when they are active and comfortable with their own aging, they virtually thrive and usually become kinder and gentler than they were decades before. If getting older can bring increased personal wisdom and kindness, what’s not to like?

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