I’ve recently come to realize that I’ve been a part of a movement that I didn’t look for, didn’t ask for, and didn’t see because it was right in front of my face. Funny how that works. I began writing about and advocating for Positive Aging, several years ago. I’m now a part of a growing movement that seeks to dispel the toxic myths of what it is to be an old person. And I have been blessed with models like Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, Carole King, and my heroine, Betty White. None of these women “retired” from life. Instead they embraced their years with a great love and gratitude and continued to thrive.
Don’t Define Me: Leave it to the Boomers to not go gently into that goodnight. Growing old is a pleasure and a gift. I live an active life both physically and mentally. And while yes, people my age may get dementia, have cancer, or arthritic knees, those things are not a given. The truth is, you can get a disease or an injury at any age. But go on the Internet and look up “top issues for seniors” and you will find statistics and studies that make every last one of us look like frail, fragile, sick and forgetful souls, withering away from our precious significance.
What The Accumulating Years Look Like: I recently saw a television show of Carole King’s concert in Hyde Park. Behind her on the stage was a huge screen that projected her image so that the crowd could see her playing and singing. She looked up at the image and then said to the audience: This is what 74 looks like. I love it that she said that. I say that too, this is what 67 looks like, and it’s not the B.S. that is on the Internet telling me I’m ready for Depends. We all have to realize that Big Pharma, and advertising directed at “senior products” is big business. And that’s what’s primarily responsible for stereotyping aging in a toxic light.
Engagement: Most of my peers travel are well read, adhere to an exercise program and try to eat well. I meet them in book clubs, writing groups, Pilate’s classes and on the hiking trail. Though they may have retired from full-time work, many still work as consultants or in part-time jobs that bring them a sense of purpose. It’s good to have something to get up for everyday. Some, like me have entered into encore careers. But none of my peers have decided to put their feet up and watch the paint dry. We all feel that we have much to offer and to share with the world. We are wildly in love with life.
The Most Truthful Stats: I loved reading Aging Well by George E. Vaillant, M.D., Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. After collecting and studying decades of data on aging populations, Vaillant concluded that aging well is not just about diet and exercise (though that helps) and it’s not about your cholesterol numbers. Rather your health and happiness is largely dependent upon your attitude.
So, the Positive Aging model is really about seeing and embracing your years as a process of vitality and continued psychological and spiritual growth.
When Are You Old?: Ask a Millennial when old age begins and likely they’ll tell you “59.” Ask a 65-year-old when old age begins and they’ll say 73. Ask me and I’ll tell you that old age begins when you disengage from life, when you shrink away from a your hard won sense of confidence and purpose. Don’t let anyone define you or put an expiration date on you. As we come to the end of our journey, we will know. Only then will we naturally and organically surrender to the pull of eternity and return to the stardust from which we came.
Love Where You Are: Positive Aging is not a means for finding ways to stay young, rather it’s a way to embrace your years and see how rich they are. Stand proudly in the light of your truth. Live fully and love well.
Badass Grannies: I intend to dance for as long as I can, to breathe in the rapture of the experience of being alive. That’s badass living. That’s badass aging. I’ve taken to heart the words from the great poet, William Ernest Henley, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” And I’ve taken to heart that attitude gets you a long way when it comes to health, happiness and aging. Hey, no body puts granny in a corner!