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The Ability to Age Gracefully: No Kidding!

posted in: My Own Aging | 0

Aging is a blessing!

We age from the moment we are born until our death. Ok, don’t panic…stay with me, please!  I know that I said the “D” word, but it’s not about that!  Honestly, I want to talk about living.  Living well.  Feeling well.  Enjoying those aspects of life that fill us with joy, wonder, fulfillment.

What is it about aging that is so challenging?  How can I possibly tolerate this aging body, with its increasing desires to lose inches from my height, with the jowls that have appeared on my face, with the battle to keep all the bulges tight and in the right parts of my physique?

It’s the ageism that I can’t stand.  It’s the notion that just because we feel like 45, that we must look like 35, even though I am approaching the receipt of my Medicare card.  It’s the constant reminders about the “70 year old grandmother, who looks 40 as a result of her miracle treatment.”  Why?  I know that I look better than my grandmother did at this age (she was ancient by now).  I even look better than my mother at this age.  She was still attractive, she dressed with a flair, she was active, but she had not taken great care of her body and already she had surgeries, limitations and she had packed on too many extra pounds that were stubbornly out of control.

Ageism is as debilitating as any chronic illness.  Ageism is part of our “throw away” society that reminds us that things that grow old can easily be replaced with the newer, better model.  In other words, in aging we lose value.  How can I be less valuable when I know that I am better adjusted, have more wisdom, less useless sensitivities to the foibles of others?  What is the meaning and value of aging, if it is only about our superficial appearances?
As western society has exploded with increasingly quick innovations in technology, we disdain anything that is not shiny and new.  So how can those of us growing into our aging bodies help but feel anything other than diminished by all of the societal pressures to take “the cure”, get “the fix” and look young forever?

Is it possible for us to respect the work that our bodies have done on our behalf and accept the well-worn signs of growth, grace and utility?  Can we learn to cherish our bumps and dents as we do with antique furniture, ancient trees, finely honed old silver?  Or must we give into the superficial call to hold onto youthful appearances at all costs?
This is not to suggest that we shouldn’t do all that we can to remain healthy and in good functional condition throughout our life.  Taking care of our bodies and our minds makes even more sense when we know that we can live into our 90’s or even to 100.  Studies have shown that people often only feel old when they become incapacitated in some manner that limits lifestyle.  Frailty, pain and limited mobility along with cognitive changes are the defining nature of “old age” for most people.  It is not their chronological age.
Unlike the awkward teenager, who wants to be like everyone else, I am proud to be different.  I am proud that I lived a different life from generations past and even many of those of my own era.  I am proud of the scars that I earned in my sometimes hard won independence.  Clearing trails is not a job for the faint of heart.  I am hoping that my hearty determination, my efforts to care for myself and my continuing to find new adventures will enable me to worry less about the outward signs of aging.  I hope that I can feel more comfortable in my skin, just as I have learned to feel more comfort in my soul.