As we age, most of us tend to idealize youth. We envy the physical vitality of youth, the open-ended sense of future and the positive anticipation of new adventures. However, when the conversation deepens, many of us privately express that we are glad that we are no longer in our tumultuous twenties, our child-rearing thirties, or our hard-driving career establishment years. We all want to revisit youth, but with the caveat that we would like to do so having the knowledge and wisdom of our present age to accompany us in those earlier life eras.
Some people become old before they are old, while others seem to have a youthful spirit well into advanced age. When my parents retired and started traveling, they used to joke that there were two kinds of people accompanying them on their travels—the young-old and the old-old. And of course, they were the young-old, at least for the first decade or so. While my parents were primarily referring to chronological age, these are also terms that can apply to our minds, hearts, and spirits.
If we grew up under difficult life circumstances, we may feel that we never really had the chance to be young and carefree—that we felt “old” even as children. Some of us were fortunate enough to grow up with a sense of youthful drive, desire, and energy that we have managed to sustain over a period of decades. We can grow up, mature and age and still find ourselves “young at heart”. Let’s explore what it means to retain or regain a youthful mind, heart, body, and spirit as we get older.
- What does the term “young at heart” mean to you? Give examples of attitudes, lifestyles, and behaviors that you consider to reflect on being young at heart.
- During what times in your life have you felt especially youthful or especially old? These periods may or may not correlate with your chronological age at the time.
- Often there are life events that trigger us to feel older or younger than our years. What life events have had a particularly powerful impact on your experience of youthfulness and age?
- In what ways do you feel your personal sense of being young at heart? How do you enhance and cultivate those feelings?
- Are there ways in which your personal journey of becoming older has helped you to feel younger as you age?
- How do you personally cope with the unpredictable nature of life?