Many of us view the aging process through an emotional telescope where what we see and feel are the emerging landscape of all things negative. I remember thinking my mom was real old when she was 30 years old and I was….let’s just say, very young. We tend to gain some amount of wisdom as we get older and realize 30 is not so old after all. However, wisdom puts things in perspective and that little kid who believed 30 was aged, now sees the 75 year old as so very old. What is old these days? I tend to see age not with numerical meaning but defined by quality of life. Age for me is a subjective frame of reference dictated by so many different factors including physical, social and emotional health.
We live in a society obsessed with age and beauty and we often correlate the two. Imagine how it feels to live in this society as a senior person. Many seniors define themselves by their limitations, their lack of support, and the losses they experience. Be it the loss of a spouse, loss of friendships, loss of independence, loss of hearing, loss of sight, loss of memory, loss of finances, loss, loss, loss. No wonder, so many seniors suffer from depression, loneliness and feelings of despair. I am here to say, we can all walk a different path.
Here is a question I hate, “how old do you think I am?”. Travel safely my friend if you are ever asked that question. I was with someone once when she asked that question and let’s just say the answer did not please her. She was 55 and they had guessed 60. An embarrassing experience for all involved.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines Aging as “gradual change in an organism that leads to increased risk of weakness, disease, and death”. Yes, Aging is an unfortunate element of living. Let’s be clear, as we age, biological functions decline and our system degenerates. There is no denying that there are some aspects of aging that can’t be avoided but there are some geriatricians who believe in the concept of successful aging. Rowe and Kahn (1998) believe that elders could pursue three main goals to live a life of satisfaction and well-being. The three goals are:
1. Avoiding disease and disability
2. Maintaining high cognitive and physical functioning
3. Staying involved with life and living
At the core of successful aging is a sense of living life with balance. Regardless of the many transitions we face, the ability to cope, adapt, and not only move on but progress is critical to this goal. Successful aging is a life lived with meaning. This is possible if we have an optimistic outlook and maintain connections with people and activities that encourage and facilitate those possibilities.
Successful aging and wellness go hand in hand. The idea of wellness is a “balance among the environment, emotional, spiritual, social, physical and cultural aspects of the person’s life”. This is achievable with a wonderful system of support as well. So, go now and see your world full of brightness and possibilities. Know you are not limited by your limitations but see the world through a different set of lenses. See new paths created over ones lost, see all the people who care and not the few who frown, and more importantly, breath in the air and feel the sunshine, because life is beautiful and it’s worth living with meaning.
Bonder, B.R & Bello-Haas, V. (2008). Functional Performance in Older Adults, 3rd editio