It sounds like you are going through some significant anxiety related to aging. You are definitely not alone in that. To state the obvious, everyone else in your life and everyone around you are also getting older and getting older at the same pace as you. We give a lot of importance to numbers, especially to numbers like our chronological age and our bank accounts. While numbers are not unimportant, neither are they all they’re cracked up to be. They are not all-determining.
Aging is a tricky thing. You have to recognize the changes that are occurring in your body, your energy, and your interests, but people often give up on activities and pleasures that they really don’t have to give up because of their stereotypes about what it means to get older. I lead a support group for older women here in Loveland and it’s amazing to see how alive and interesting and energetic these women are; most are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. To a fairly great extent you get to influence your experience of aging.
Personal choices, fortune, and circumstances influence how you age, but so do beliefs and attitudes. It’s important to become aware of your own thoughts, assumptions and beliefs about aging. We all have them. We can’t live in this culture and not absorb some of these stereotypes; and these beliefs run deeper into our subconscious minds than we realize. Most of these beliefs involve sentences that start with “I’m getting old, so I can’t…….”.
A useful exercise to combat these stereotypes in our minds is to challenge ourselves to make a list beginning with the words, “I’m getting older, so I can. . . . . .”. It’s actually not that hard once you get the hang of it. Some of my favorites are, “I’m getting older, so I don’t have to be so concerned with what other people think of me.” “I’m getting older, so I can put comfort over fashion and who really cares, anyway?” and another one, “I’m getting older, so I don’t have to run through life at a breakneck speed anymore; I can relax and enjoy the ride.”
Don’t get me wrong. Getting older is not a piece of cake. As the saying goes, “Getting old is not for sissies”. There are definitely losses and hardships along the path and eventually we all meet the end of our personal road. That’s not a welcome idea for most of us to contemplate. However, even the culture around aging is starting to change. Conventional wisdom now holds that 50 is the new 30—so is 60 the new 40? As long as you have your health, 60 can be whatever you make it—perhaps with just a couple of limitations here and there.
You might consider joining the (gasp!) senior center in your local community. There are some amazing people there as well as events and resources. Even better, you will feel like a youngster there and that’s not a bad feeling at all, especially when you’re turning 60.