Growing Old Gracefully
The simple things...
Whatever happened to the idea of growing old gracefully? Why do we fight against the inevitable? What do we have to gain, except perhaps an ulcer? We stress and fuss about staying young, looking like we did at twenty, hiding all the gray hair, and taking whatever pills necessary to mask our aches and pains. Where, in all of this, do we actually enjoy the present, or appreciate life as it is?
I, for one, want to grow old gracefully, which means I will grow old! There, I’ve said it...I’m going to get old. I’m already halfway there! What an achievement really, don’t you think? I’ve survived many of life’s twists and turns and learned some wisdom along the way. I’ve got the gray hair to prove it.
This does not mean that I want to neglect my responsibility to try to live in such a way that growing old will be a more pleasant experience. I breathe so my body has the oxygen it needs to function properly. I try to eat the right foods that will keep me as healthy as possible. I get as much exercise as I am able. And, I use my mind in as many ways as possible to keep it from slipping away into senility. At least I hope the last part is true!
I hear from a lot of people who are working too much, that they have no time for their spouse, children, grandchildren, personal interests, or their health. They long for the day when they can retire so they will have time to do all these things. Why wait? None of us can guarantee that we’ll even make it to retirement (and in all likelihood, if we continue the way we are, we won’t.) What is the point in missing out on all these things now when we don’t even know if we’ll ever get the chance to do any of it later. We won’t actually—the moments with our family, going on that trip, spending time with friends, pursuing a hobby—these moments, the ones today, we’ll never get a chance to live again.
Have you ever stopped to think that all our frenzied activity while we’re younger is focused on getting old--either preparing for retirement (saving, planning, investing, etc.), or avoiding the idea of getting old (anti-aging products, plastic surgery, excessive exercise, etc.) Yes, we need to be wise in the way we plan for our future and we need to take care of ourselves, but if that is our only focus we truly do miss out on the life we’ve been given now.
I believe growing old gracefully is taking time to smell the roses. Take time to appreciate the air you breathe--breathe in deeply and exhale all the toxins of the day’s stress. Take a walk in the park and talk to the ducks--you might look crazy but the ducks will thank you! Go for coffee with a friend and actually take the time to listen--you’ll hear their heart-words and it will make a difference. Spend extra time with your spouse and find ways to make them laugh--that secret moment will be a wonderful memory shared by only the two of you. In and of themselves, these things don’t take a lot of time. It is up to us to choose how we want to make our life worthwhile.
I want to look back on my life and know that people have had a better experience in life because of me. Am I the kind of person that people want to forget, or are happy to remember? Am I making the choices now that will make me a pleasant person when I get old, or will I end up being miserable? The choices we make now will make a difference when we get old. So, what are those choices? If our focus is only financial, we may end up rich and lonely. If our focus is only our body, we will be sadly disgruntled when arthritis sets in and walking gets difficult. If we focus on our attitude, we will be able to grow old gracefully and have a great time doing it! Did I say that perhaps the most important thing to foster is a sense of humor? Well, it is...laughter does good, like a medicine. We need to learn how to laugh at ourselves, at life, and not let getting old get us down.