It has been said that the baby boomers will re-define the concept and process of aging. There are several approaches to this inevitable part of life. One is to deny it for as long as possible. Much time and money can go into maintaining a youthful appearance. This can be carried to extremes with multiple surgeries, but still, the body ages. Life becomes an anxious search for signs that might give one’s true age away, and for new methods to disguise these signs.
Another approach is to become depressed and discouraged, deciding that the best part of life is in the past. All there is left to look forward to is sitting in a rocking chair as the mind and body deteriorate. Unfortunately, this can become a self – fulfilling prophecy.
The healthier approach, of course, is to accept that aging and death are a part of life and to come to terms with them – then to live each day to the fullest, basking in the wisdom that aging brings. This is obviously easier said than done, but is the major task in the second half of life.
Denying or fearing the process of aging deprives one of the richness inherent in “coming of age” in the truest sense. In the second half of life we are given a “second chance” to live life as our own authentic selves. It no longer makes sense to try to be who someone else wants us to be. It is a time also for recognizing the value of our life experiences.
Positive or negative, effortless or marked by struggle, the perspective we have on what we have lived becomes the wisdom of our generation. We learn as much from our mistakes as our successes and we each have pieces to contribute to the puzzle of life. Repeating the stories of our lives keeps us on a superficial level. Sharing the meaning beneath the stories, what we have come to understand about the about the human journey leads us into the heart of things.
It is our task to re – define aging in our culture; we must begin to value the gifts that we bring. We must respect ourselves, even as we age. Yes, we can joke about needing our reading glasses or forgetting why we came into the kitchen. However, we must not slip into the belief that we will become increasingly useless as the years go by. If we cannot honor ourselves as elders, or elders-to-be in our culture, why would we expect that others would? The generation that coined the phrase, “Never trust anyone over thirty” has a lot of work to do. Funny how fast what goes around comes around.
Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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