We often have unexamined views and opinions about getting older that have been absorbed from society, our families, teachers and peers. The media, entertainment and business are, to a large extent, age-phobic. Yet things are changing, many older people are no longer prepared to sit on the settee and watch TV for 20-30 years. There is so much we elders can be doing for ourselves, for our communities and for the planet.
My intention here is to explore the factors that would appear to lead to a joyful and rewarding ageing journey and to provide resources that may be helpful along the way. I will combine my personal perceptions and experience with those of research in the field and will reference sources where appropriate. You will also find useful information on most aspects of ageing in the resources section. From my experience and from the literature it is clear that whatever our chronological age we are able to change many aspects of our ageing process.
In truth I rarely thought about ageing until I was well into my sixties and from my late seventies I can see that I was scared and confused and saw the future as a gradual slide downhill to a miserable end. I was depressed and confused and not easy to live with!
There is nothing quite like the end of a long term relationship and moving to a new location to encourage a person to reflect and question what life’s meaning and purpose might be. For most of us the previous stages of life meaning and purpose are quite clear: to grow, to learn, to become autonomous, to fall in love, procreate, to help our children flourish and for them to become independent adults. But how do we find our meaning and purpose when we retire from paid work and the children have flown the nest? How might we become an effective elder in our families, community and the wider world? We are certainly needed more than ever!
I find it very difficult to point to one aspect of chronological ageing that needs our attention more than others, it might be said that focusing on our health is the most important and indeed many of the keys to good health will also apply to our sense of purpose and our emotional well-being. There is no doubt that our attitude to the inevitable changes that come as we age effects those changes, if we treat, or learn to treat, ourselves with friendliness and compassion our journey will be so much more enjoyable. Can we kindly smile to ourselves whilst standing in the middle of the kitchen and wondering why we are there? By the way, ask around your younger relations and friends and you will find that this is not a “senior moment” – let’s ban that phrase!
Below is a list of aspects of ageing that we have some control over physically, emotionally or intellectually. Change is inevitable and that can be hard at times but it can work in our favour, our brains are very flexible and designed for change. You can teach an old dog new tricks!
Click on any topic to explore it further:
• Life Perspective
• Accepting Mortality
• Joy and Fun
• Curiosity and learning
• Becoming a wise elder
• Creating Legacy
I’m sure I've missed something! It does seem like a long list and should keep us busy for years but many aspects are interrelated and nearly everything on the list contributes to our health.