Getting older isn’t optional. As long as we are alive, we will keep getting older, whether we want to or not. Many of us struggle with our feelings of powerlessness around this inevitable fact of life. After all, it really isn’t something under our control. There are certain aspects of our lives that we can control or influence, but this is not one of them. So how do we cope with the reality of getting older? Some people stay stuck in the feelings of powerlessness and the feelings of sadness, anger or resentment that often accompany that sense of powerlessness. Others figure out new, better ways to cope.
After retirement, my parents did some traveling. They were often in groups of older people of a wide age range. They decided there were two categories of people on their tours: the “young old” and the “old old”. They began their adventures as part of the group of travelers they considered “young old”. While the exact age of transition from young-old to old-old is subjective, I believe that a lot of us think in these terms. When we are young-old, we have the energy to travel, take on projects, and do adventurous things if we are fortunate enough to be healthy, but the probability is that as we age, we will have less energy and it is increasingly likely that our health may restrict us in various ways.
Making the most of getting older has a lot to do with the decisions we make about how to spend our time when we are young-old and what options are available to us as we cross into being old-old. It is helpful to think consciously about this when you are younger so that you can decide what activities you want to engage in post-retirement and give some thought to how to create a fun and meaningful life as you move through different stages of aging. For example, rather than putting off strenuous travel, camping, taking sky-diving lessons or learning to be a gourmet cook, perhaps these are things you might wish to do when you are young-old, but perhaps painting and other artistic pursuits, reading, taking intellectually stimulating classes and age-flexible exercise are things you can do throughout your life. How can we make the best of getting older?
- Do you consider yourself young-old or old-old and was there a specific age, circumstance or point in time when that shifted for you?
- Did you consciously think about the things you would like to do or accomplish in your younger years? Are there things you are considering doing as you become older?
- What are your fears and anxieties about aging and how are you coping with them in the present?
- What advantages do you feel you experience as you become older?
- If you could consult a wise woman about how to psychologically and emotionally handle getting older, what advice do you think she would give you?