Aging well is a lot like a spiritual practice. It requires awareness, discipline and focus to move through the third chapter of life with some grace and a little bit of mischievous disgrace.
How you care and feed your heart and soul determines your happiness and adjustment to aging more than anything. Here are the three touchstones that I think about when I ponder aging well.
Adaptability has become a centerpiece. In recent years, it seems like I’m always letting go of something and learning to embrace something else.
Retirement is the great upheaval. We look forward to it for years and then, once it gets here, most of us aren’t sure what to do with it. And some of us mourn the loss of our working identity. We have to adapt to a new way of living life.
There are big and small losses everywhere. Friends pass away and we adapt to grief by learning to embrace the grace.
For example, I mourned the loss of my mother, and through the process of being with my grief, I started to see the gifts that she left me, realizing that because of those, I would never really be without her.
Adaptation challenges us to smaller living spaces, to body limitations, to creating new ways to engage with the world. Our willingness and ability to adapt keeps us fluid and flexible, because change at this stage of the journey becomes a more frequent inevitability.
Keep moving. That should be the motto for anyone over 50. Garden. Hike. Walk. Yoga. Pilates. Swim. There are dozens of things that you can do every day to keep moving.
My friend Dami Roesle writes about women taking up hiking after the age of 50. As she points out, it’s never too late to start a walking program.
But activity also means mental activity. Are you exercising your mind with reading, films, lectures or classes? Do you belong to a book group or writing group that allows you to share your thoughts and challenge your thinking?
Too often we hear the phrase “stuck in her ways” when it comes to elders. Activity means not getting stuck, either physically or mentally.
Spiritually, we need to stay active, too. Do you have a prayer practice, devotional reading practice or a meditation practice – something that feeds and nourishes that sense of being connected to a greater love and a greater power?
I think that we all need a daily practice to help us reflect upon our lives, make adjustments and say thank you. And I believe that worshipfulness can take the form of joy expressed not only through prayer and meditation but through dancing, singing, gardening, art – anything that enlivens the senses.
Attitude speaks for itself, doesn’t it? We’re all old enough to know that good attitude will contribute to aging well, even better than low cholesterol.
I’ve sometimes complained that as I grow older, I grow more invisible to the world. I lose a sense of significance. We all go through this to some degree. What I’ve discovered though, is that when I walk in gratitude and share my gratitude, I’m more visible.
An attitude of vitality and joy is essential to feeling significant in the world. I was recently at a restaurant that had a live rock’n’roll band.
I watched a couple in their 90s get up and dance. They were so much fun, so filled with enthusiasm for life, that everyone in that restaurant wanted to be like them. Nothing invisible. Nothing insignificant. Find joy in your life and live it loudly.
Joseph Campbell said that what we want from life is not meaning but experience. We want the rapture of the experience of being alive. And that’s true at any age.
What does “aging well” mean to you? What goals do you have for the decades ahead? Please share your precious thoughts in the comment section.