Aging gracefully is something that we all hope to be able to do. We hope that we will be able to maintain good mental and physical health until our dying day. Then with loved ones by our side we hope to just gently slip over to the other side.
Have you ever stopped to think how you really feel whenever the thought or the topic of aging comes up? As a rule, it generally impacts people with concern, anxiety, and even dread. The reason is that aging is most often associated with a lot of negatives, such as disappearing good looks, a frail body, loss of memory, and chronic illnesses.
We hope that we can have a life well lived. That it will have been meaningful and purposeful. The things that we do now will hopefully have an impact on someone’s future.
However as Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.” The fact is that people are quite different in the way they age. There are a number of people my age and younger who already have a number of disabilities that make life difficult for them. There are others who are much older yet they seem to stay forever young.
Some are fortunate to enjoy a pretty good health, both physically and mentally, in their senior years. Medical advances have also made it possible for those, who may be suffering from chronic illnesses, to treat or control them. As a result, in some areas of the world, a greater number of people are living longer and healthier lives.
Indisputably, regardless of being confronted with age-related health problems or not, most people wish to age gracefully. Is this possible? How can it be done?
The answer is greatly dependent on our attitude and our willingness and ability to adapt to this new phase in our lives. To help and clarify these areas, let us consider some simple and practical rules.
Make Modest Adjustments
Aging is a process that we are all going through. It only makes sense to make some modest adjustments as we get older. We have to recognize and accept the fact that there are certain limitations that come with aging, and not try to deny or ignore them. For instance, I injured my knee some years back and although it has healed, whenever I stress it the knee lets me know very quickly that it is not a twenty year old knee. Therefore, when I exercise I must hold that in consideration..
Being modest, however, does not mean that we have to adopt the defiant attitude that because we are old there is nothing else left for me. Instead, we should show wisdom and make the best of a situation. Exercise like other activities can be done in some form as long as we live. We simply make the needed adjustments.
It is just like driving uphill with a car, you should change gears and avoid stalling the car engine.Therefore, adjustments are definitely necessary to be made when someone grows older. We have to develop a balanced approach to domestic chores and other activities. We must follow a moderately relaxed schedule to avoid feeling completely drained of energy at the end of the day. We have to learn to pace ourselves and take short breaks in between tasks when necessary. We have to recognize and respect our limits.
Keep A Little Balance In All Things
If you want to age gracefully then you must consider the art of being balanced. The expression “appropriate dress” denotes balance and good taste. We have to dress neat and clean. We don’t want to look dowdy or advertise that we are old or that we don’t care what we look like. Someone who is attractively dressed knows how to choose clothing that is right for their age and body type. They then put on a smile and wear it with poise and style.
The cosmetic companies and their commercials make millions off anti-aging products. They have tried to convince the public that unless we spend those millions that we will look horrible and no one will associate with us. That is advertising. But then, that is what advertising is all about.
In real life the old adage “less is more” comes into play. An overabundance of makeup will only make you look older and desperate. Do you really want to look like a twenty something or do you just want to look the best that you can and with class at your current age? Do take care of what you have. You can keep your hair and skin in good condition without spending a fortune. Again, balance here is the key. Be careful not to become so concerned about your personal appearance to the point of failing to exercise “soundness of mind.”
As we age, we may experience negative feelings when we remember our youthful vigor and all the things we once were able to do. This is quite understandable, but we should make an effort not to be overcome by those negative feelings. Dwelling on the past can make our lives gloomy and discourage us from what we are able to do.
Fear of the future is just as bad as dwelling on the past. When you spend too much time thinking and being anxious about the possible negative aspects of your future, you lose the ability to enjoy the here and now. You can actually make yourself sick by simply failing to live a positive lifestyle.
Reading and learning new things can make us feel more positive by broadening our horizons. It is not at all costly to enjoy the thrill of adventure, or the joy of traveling beyond the confines of home through the written word.
Maybe there is some hobby like drawing and painting that you never had the time to indulge in before. Now would be a good time to start. You don’t have to know anything about it before you start either. There is no one you need to please but yourself. What is that one thing you never had time to do but wanted to try?
We should make it a regular practice to share some of our time and resources with others. this will give us a feeling of accomplishment and happiness. Even despite our possible physical limitations, we can call , or write letters to friends who may be sick or discouraged. Sometimes, we can send them little gifts or cook them a meal or make them a desert, when they are sick.
Basically, generosity creates generosity. When we show love to others, they will respond by giving you love and affection. It really is better to give than receive because the more you give of yourself the more there is that keeps coming back to you. Those who do not age gracefully tend to be afraid of giving. Some people are just afraid that they will not have enough for themselves if they start giving to others. Such people may not realize it is not always financial giving, but rather of their time and themselves. As a result, they literally shut off a cycle of giving that they could benefit from a lot more than they gave.
We all know that there may be times that we want to be alone. It is, however, important that we avoid becoming isolated and withdrawn. We have to joyfully associate with people of all ages. Being around young people, who radiate with vitality will make us feel young again – at least on the inside.
Friendly people are indeed communicative. However, communication, being a two-way process, dictates that we need to make it a point to be good company. We have to show personal interest in others for this communication to take place.
We have to be good listeners and listen to what others have to say in order to learn what they think, as well as their likes and dislikes. Most people enjoy being around good listeners, especially those who show empathy and interest in others, who give a word of commendation at the right time, and who have a sense of humor.
Whenever we receive help, we have to show our appreciation for the attention given to us. Such expressions of thankfulness and gratitude will help to cultivate good relations. Sometimes, even sending a simple thank-you card, or having them over for a meal with say a lot.
Above all, we should be thankful for life itself. King Solomon said: “A live dog is better than a dead lion.” Life is a precious gift even when we find ourselves somewhat limited. With the right attitude and the willingness to adapt, it is quite possible to age gracefully.
A Little Common Sense
No matter what stage of life you are in, there are things that you can do to make life better… or worse. The simple rules listed above are good common sense no matter what your age may be. We all have adjustments to make in life, but if we learn to adapt to life’s changes instead of fiercely fighting them, we will be much better off.
We have all seen those ladies and gents who did indeed age gracefully. They seemed to have a zest for life that made younger people jealous. They come in all shapes, sizes, and health conditions, but they have one thing in common. They all seem to have that special something that enables them to grow old gracefully. They managed to adapt to the changes in their lives with a positive attitude. They managed to maintain friendships and find ways to continue to be useful to and help others. They did not just think of their own selves but were generous loving people.
A Wonderful Example
I had an aunt who was 98 when she passed. She was a beautiful, elegant, and gracious lady. She had her birthday a couple of months before she had a major stroke which took her out of this life. She was in a nursing home because of an earlier stroke. When a friend and I went to visit, she was in the dining hall enjoying her lunch. After she finished, we went back to her room to visit a bit longer. My aunt was always an excellent hostess and, even though we told her that we did not want anything, she would not be satisfied until she found a twinkie that she could give to us.
My aunt, like her sisters and parents, were all very giving in nature. As she grew older she stayed busy with first one project and then another. She kept her brain active and her mind was sharp. In her earlier years she and her husband had worked a farm. They grew their own vegetables and she had a good knowledge of nutrition. Being physically and mentally active along with good nutrition can go a long way towards enabling a person to have a good quality of life into their golden years.
A Few More Thoughts
None of us know when we will leave this life. It might be past the age of a hundred or it might not even be another day. I might not even get to finish this article. I don’t have any way of knowing and neither do you.
Before we can truly be at ease and enjoy what time we do have here, I think it is necessary for us to become comfortable with our own mortality. As a person of faith I am ready when my maker tells me my job here is done. Until He does, it is my job to keep on with the task at hand.
Will I be able to age as gracefully as my aunt did? I don’t know! But she did set a marvelous example for me and others to follow. Every morning is a good morning and every night is a good night. There is much to be thankful for.
Sometimes life will surprise you by giving you new roles that you did not expect. That has been true for me and I have been greatly enriched by those roles.
Regarding aging.. we simply trade some of our days when we were younger and better looking for days of higher wisdom. Now when I look at the faces of other people, the best looking ones are not those who have perfect features – It is those who wear sincere smiles that come from the heart. Why did we not realize that when we were younger?
They have that unique beauty that comes from inside. A beauty that never fades… Unlike our external physical beauty that will eventually fade away.
Will I grow old with grace? Other people will have to tell me that one, since simply looking in the mirror will not tell me the truth! All I can do is try to follow my own rules above. These rules pretty much govern things that we should pay attention to if we want to age gracefully – inside and outside.
There are a number of helpful books on aging gracefully if you would like to learn more.
I would really love to hear your thoughts on this subject. I am sure that each of you have seen some marvelous examples you would like to share. Please feel free to comment. Thank you!