Not long ago, a lovely friend of mine referred to herself as an “old woman.” She had inserted another adjective, but it is irrelevant for this discussion. I did not respond to her self-description, but I thought to myself, “You are a talented, creative woman with many gifts. How sad that you are referring to yourself in a limited way.”
My friend is only in her later 60s. I am a few years younger than her, but not by much. I have and will continue to call myself “a woman of a certain age” or “a mature woman.” Even calling myself or others “an older woman or adult” sounds less inflammatory. You might wonder if I am in denial. My response is no.
On the contrary, I am proud to be 65 and to have had the grace to be living as long as I have on this earth. I still see the windshield wide open, even if the road is short in front of me. “Why,” you might ask. “Why not,” is my answer.
What is the point of trying to avoid the inevitable? Welcome it, be grateful, and keep going as if you have many years ahead of you or this is the last day of your life. Most significantly, do not focus too much on the future. Live in the moment with verve and flexibility.
Some people might think, “Easy for you to say.” My response would be, “Not really.” Although blessings have sprinkled my life, I have endured some of the unfairness and significant obstacles, but to me, there is no choice.
When we feel we cannot get up, we must, even if it feels like an impossible task. By tapping into our resilience, we might have to drag our way to a standing, wobbly position. Next, brush yourself off and get back on the uneven ground we call life.
Does such thinking have benefits as we age? Intuitively, I believed so, but now my thought has research to validate this perspective. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, feeling more youthful may help adults handle stress as they get older. Researchers analyzed three years of data from 5,039 participants, age 40 and older, who participated in the German Ageing Survey.
Researchers often examine age through three lenses. One is the chronological age which is the age we refer to ourselves based on our birthday. The second is the biological age, determined by the condition of our body. Finally, there is the subjective age, the one we believe we feel.
The study revealed the significance of viewing oneself as younger. This perspective seemed to be a protective buffer. One important finding was that those who saw themselves as more youthful than their chronological age had a weaker link between stress and health decline.
The lead author, Markus Wettstein, indicated that many people enter old age with sound and intact health resources, whereas others experience a pronounced decline in functional health. In conclusion, he surmised that those who had a younger subjective age appeared to have a more robust defense against the impact stress often wreaks on biological aging.
Many are calling for a more positive view of aging. I could not agree more. As someone whose mother viewed herself as younger, I will follow suit. I had the appreciation of watching her maintain independence, working with pleasure until age 81, keeping her home, driving her car, and attending to her finances.
When cancer came calling for her a second time, refusing to surrender, my mother whispered to me the following: “I know I am old, but I am a young 82-year-old.” Sadly, cancer won the battle, but she died knowing she did the best she could with her youthful outlook.
I carry my mother’s perspective. My friend can refer to herself as an “old woman.” That is her right. For me, I will honorably continue to describe myself as a woman of a certain age.
“Words are indeed like fine surgery,” borrowing from someone who said that to me long ago. How you think and how you say it does make a difference. Not only does it come across more optimistically, but you can feel the positive effects begin to surge.
How about you? What are your thoughts about thinking as if 60 was the new 40? A myth, perhaps, but why not give it a try and watch what happens?