Age gracefully. I know that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, but what does it mean exactly? So far, I would not use the word “graceful” to describe the process of getting older and, frankly, I haven’t found it to be particularly user friendly. But what’s our alternative - aging clumsily?
In some parts of the world, we would be having an entirely different conversation. Because there are cultures that honor the maturity, wisdom and experience that we accumulate as we age instead of focusing on the physical changes that occur like we do here in the U.S. We not only focus on them, we have a national obsession with fighting the signs of aging by any means possible and affordable. So it's understandably challenging to feel exuberant about getting older when every direction you turn there’s another reminder that it is not okay to have grey hair and wrinkles.
I’ve caught myself snickering under my breath when women in their 30s talk about aging as if they knew a thing about it. But the fact is women in their 30s do begin to experience signs of aging that can be upsetting. We're all in the same boat, ladies, only some of us are a little further down the river. So the more supportive we are of each other - the better.
Imagine if we had been socialized to welcome the physical signs of aging instead of dreading them. If we would have been thinking, we would have associated the inevitable sagging of our skin and our bodies with the positive aspects of getting older like the insight that we start to experience in our 50s and the sense of ourselves that comes in our 60s. Unfortunately, we’re not reaping the benefits of foresight, so we’ll just have to rewrite the rules as we go.
A wise woman for whom I have the highest regard and the deepest respect once told me,
"For me it's not about looking younger, it's about being the best I can be at my current age."
Could it be as simple as that? Maybe it's not about aging gracefully, no matter what that really means. Maybe it's about living our best lives according to our definition and taking good care of ourselves - mind, body and spirit - at every stage of our lives. Let's decline to stress over other people's ideals of age and beauty and focus on what we like about ourselves as we are right now - today. While we're at it, we can redefine what it means to be our best at every age.
So how important is attitude when we’re talking about aging? I would suggest that it belongs at the top of the list. It’s something we can control and fine tune. And it has a very helpful snowball effect that can positively impact every aspect of our lives. Christopher Berglund wrote about it in 2016, but it’s still resonating in 2021.
Whether you’re in your 20s, your 80s or somewhere in between, it’s always a good idea to focus on good habits for healthy aging. I found these tips by decade on the Baptist Health System website.
How important is age to you? Do you have some tips for the rest of us about getting older? Let's talk about it!