When we are little, most of us look forward to getting older. Infants are told to be proud that they are becoming toddlers. Toddlers are given messages by parents about how exciting it is to be school age and being school age brings its own rewards like friendships, a sense of mastery, and the development of new capabilities. Younger school-age children tend to admire and envy older peers in the higher grades because they see the interesting activities and extra freedom they are given. Middle school students see that becoming a teenager means learning to drive and having more rights and privileges than younger kids, and so on.
That sense of optimism and the opportunities for growth and freedom that becoming older implies often lasts for many decades. Our twenties, thirties and for some of us even our forties may be times in life that we look forward to with excitement about becoming older, but somewhere along the way the balance of our excitement starts to tip in the other direction. We begin longing for our youth; we no longer want to become older—we want to become younger. Aging becomes an unwelcome inevitability, a chore, a sign of diminishing hope for realizing some of the dreams of our youth and we experience more losses.
This shift comes for women at different ages and in different life stages. Some begin to feel it in their 50s. Many women seem to experience it when they turn 60 or 70. And of course there are a few women who continue to welcome each decade of life with an excitement and enthusiasm that few others can muster at pivotal life stages. At whatever chronological point this shift occurs, we are faced with a new challenge, the challenge of accepting the reality of our own aging and our own inevitable mortality. This is no easy task. Today’s discussion focuses on the realities of our lives as aging women and how we come to accept and celebrate ourselves in every decade of life.
- In what decade of life did you begin to realize that the clock doesn’t tick backward and when did it begin to disturb you?
- How do you feel about becoming older now that you can look at it from the perspective of this decade of your life?
- People react to the inevitability of aging in a variety of ways ranging from radical acceptance to extreme resistance. How have you reacted? Have there been turning points when you moved from resistance to acceptance or from acceptance back to resistance?
- If you could choose a decade of your life to continue living for a very long time, which decade of life would that be and why?
- What does acceptance of aging mean to you? How would acceptance look in your daily life? Do you feel that you are growing in your ability to accept your aging?
- In what ways do you still resist your age or becoming older? Resistance can be a good thing or a bad thing. Are there positives to resisting aging?