Aging is about adaptation: changing how we function and how we do things as we move through our life cycle. Adaptation is at the core of what allows us to live and survive on this planet both as individuals and as a species. The many adaptations required of us as we age are no different that the requirements of life on this planet are in every one of its forms, whether plant, animal or human. Adaptation is about continuously updating our understanding of our own capabilities and our environment and what is required of us to live and thrive.
Aging requires that we update how we view ourselves physically, psychologically and relationally and make the necessary adjustments as we go along. Some of these adaptations are clearly required from a given moment in time. We get injured and must stop a favorite activity or we develop a serious illness and need to change how we eat, our routines, how much we can take on or accomplish in a given period of time and so forth. The change is overwhelming and unarguable.
Other adaptations are more gradual and require continual adjustments over time. Our changing energy levels alter how much work it is to work, to care for grandchildren, to travel. We have choices about when, whether and how to change our choice of lifestyle and activities. We may gradually find ourselves going on shorter hikes, traveling less or in a less demanding style, giving up tent camping in favor of RV camping and deciding it is time to quit hosting the major events in our families, such as Thanksgiving dinner. It just becomes too risky, too uncomfortable or more work than we want to do at this stage in our lives.
Key to satisfaction as we age is learning how to accept our aging process and move as smoothly as we can with the adaptations required as we become older. Often, we can substitute simpler versions of the things we enjoy. If we have skied much of our lives, we may give up downhill skiing or shift to activities and runs that are less challenging and less dangerous. If we were heavily into running in the past, perhaps we modify our distances or shift to fast walking or some other activity less demanding on our joints. Sometimes we must give up a given activity entirely and choose another activity for enjoyment or fitness. Let’s talk about the necessary adaptations involved with becoming older.
- What are some of activities and lifestyle choices you have had to alter as you have gotten older?
- Which have been the most difficult to give up? Which have been the easiest or most natural to leave behind?
- How do you feel about the adaptations required of you? Are you angry, sad, resentful or accepting? Do you work with these changes or do you fight them?
- What are the benefits you have gained because of the adaptations you have made in lifestyle or activities relative to aging? Which adaptations are you needing to make now?