The Paradox of Aging
It was a pleasure to connect with Patricia Greenberg at the recent Three Tomatoes Renewal Summit. As a national expert on living well, the theme of IF NOT NOW WHEN resonated with Patricia and truly parallels the philosophies of those of us “who are no longer kids” and are dealing with the aging process on a daily basis. Did you know, for example, that in the United States, more than 10,000 people turn 65 every day and that the US population of those over 65 has increased 38.6% in just 10 years. Agreed that we are living longer… but are we living better? While most of us will not be jumping out of airplanes, bungee jumping, or other indicators that “we still have it”, how do we adjust and compensate for the passage of time? In the words of Andy Rooney, “It is paradoxical that while the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, the idea of getting older doesn’t appeal to anyone”! Patricia Greenberg addresses the Paradox of Aging beautifully in her article below, reminding us that indeed the time is now and that “today is the first day of the rest of your life”!
The Aging Well Paradox
by Patricia Greenberg
The secret to aging well, commonly referred to as successful aging, is not to fight to stay young, but to enjoy every minute of our lives. Many of us seem to be in a state of Limbo, about our age. Not Young, not old, and a bit lost on how to navigate aging well.
We are of the mistaken belief that if you need, glasses, hearing aids, “good for your feet shoes” and a walker, you are not aging well. Nothing could be further from the truth!! The most important thing you can do for yourself as you age is get the help you need to live a full life.
It is time to let go of the ridiculous myths and misconceptions about aging that we have all absorbed from a judgmental and youth-obsessed society. Why do people think that the older people aren’t cool, don’t understand the youth of today, are stupid, forgetful, don’t have sex appeal, and just generally are not relevant? Because that is what we heard growing up, the message is repeated in the media, and we have come to believe it. Starting today, let us all reject these outdated ideas, and create a new vision of healthy aging.
Our society is so youth-obsessed that we don’t want to believe that one day we, too, will be old and infirm and possibly dependent on others. Fear of aging often prevents us from living life to the fullest every day. Worrying about what might happen, hanging on to past beliefs that no longer work, and our concerns about being relevant, can cause us to be so anxiety-ridden that we cannot enjoy where we are today. Let go of unrealistic goals, and live life the way you want to for yourself.
Life now seems on a fast forward button. We may look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Where did the time go?” “How did I get to be this age?” “What have I done right?” “What have I done wrong?” At this time, you may not have answers. Rather than live with regret and remorse, remember the classic cliché, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” This in no way means to be reckless or irresponsible. It just means to set new goals and dreams for who you are today, starting from where you really are, in the present moment.
As we age, many of us go from feeling invincible to invisible. Often we come to feel that life has passed us by. Fear and depression is common with aging. This can be a result of changes in one’s own health status, or that of our loved ones. It may be an emotional response to what is going on in the world around us, or to how people treat us – perhaps noticing how they have begun to treat us differently than they did in the past. You may be caregiving and feeling stuck.
All of these circumstances and observations can be used as opportunities to learn and grow. Let’s start out by exploring what you have to offer to society as you age. Ever-expanding wisdom, years of experience, and the opportunity to be a role model to those who thirst for guidance and understanding in a confusing world. Others need what you have to give.
If being left behind is one of your fears about aging, then starting today, be proactive in making your life the very best you can be at any age. Be active as a role model, rather than being complacent and fading off into the background. Don’t criticize young people when you sense they have shut you out based on your age. Respecting the younger generations and what they have to offer you will get you further than shunning them back or criticizing their life choices. They are the future leaders of our world.
Take advantage of the opportunity to model and teach compassion, acceptance, tolerance, empathy – we will all benefit from it eventually.
Rather than the admonishment we remember from childhood – “Act your age!” we were scolded if we were acting childish – today it is a reminder to embody the fullness of the lives that we have lived, and not pretend to be younger than we are. It really means to live your best life at the age you are now. Participate in life doing the things that you want to do and truly enjoy, rather than doing what you are told you are supposed to like, or pretending you are happy with new trends that don’t work for you.
When you use your age-related experience and surround yourself with like-minded and similar aged people, you will flourish. Your peers are your best advisors. When you surround yourself with your contemporaries you will see how far you have come. While you may gain energy and insight into current trends by hanging around people who are 10 or 20 years younger, it can also put you at a disadvantage, worrying that you don’t fit in, and that they may feel that way about you. This discomfort can be relieved upon finding a social network of people that you can relate to, and find that unspoken common ground that we all need.
Life moves at warp speed, and you will be beamed up before you know it. Every moment counts and by slowing down to realize that, you will feel that the days are longer and more rewarding than you ever imagined. You can never get your time back, and you won’t forget the past, but learn from it. If you stay stuck in your “should-have-done, could-have-done,” life will pass you by.
One of the best ways to live life to the fullest and enjoy each day is to stop comparing yourself to anyone else, whether it’s a friend, a family member, and especially someone you have never met, much less a photo in a magazine! Celebrities and other extremely wealthy and seemingly blessed people in the public eye don’t seem to age the way we mere mortals do. You never know what tricks they use to look good on the outside. Why focus on someone else’s life? Especially when you don’t even know them! It is wasted energy.
Most of us are just good people who want to continue to enjoy our lives, be healthy, live long, and age well. Doing all the things we like, that make us happy and feel complete is a common goal. Looking at the issues facing us as we age helps us cope with these issues, work through them, and feel fulfilled. Either you are now, or hopefully, one day, you will be that elderly person that no one seems to care about.
Be grateful that you are aging; it is wonderful to have a long life, see changes, and know your children, grandchildren, and extended family and friends throughout life’s most profound milestones. Older adults understand the value of technological changes more, because they can appreciate what it took to get to where we are today, and what life was like before these new inventions existed and were part of our daily lives. When we, the baby boomers, were little, the world was enormous, and now it seems smaller as time goes by. Find a young person who is interested in what you have to share, and tell them something about the world before they were born. It’s so enlightening to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Certainly, nothing can stop the passage of time, but rather than see it fly by and feel we have achieved nothing of note, let us make the connections that make living worthwhile. That is aging well.
Patricia Greenberg, aka The Fitness Gourmet, is an aging well coach, and an expert in all aspects of living life to the fullest at any age. As the creator of Eat Well, Live Well, Age Well she consults, teaches, and hosts a weekly show, and speaks at seminars nationwide. Passionate about wellness for life, Patricia completed 20 marathons and 115 half marathons, and loves the sport of tower climbing, having conquered buildings all over the country. She is the author of four books with a fifth on the way. Married with a grown daughter, in her downtime she is an avid reader and knitter. For more information: www.patriciagreenberg.com
Anne brings a wealth of knowledge to her role as The Three Tomatoes’ Beauty, Health and Wellness Editor. As a champion of health and well-being for all, she is the Founder/Publisher of GLOW Beauty, Health and Wellness magazine; previous Founder of Castle Connolly Graduate Medical Publishing, publishing educational review manuals for doctors to pass their board exams in 15 different medical specialties and co-Founder of MDPublish.com, publishing and marketing books for health professionals. A winner of the SMART CEO award for "entrepreneurial spirit with a sense of give back to the community," Anne sits on many Boards for women's health, with a particular passion for Veterans and her current
role as Special Advisor to Operation Warrior Shield, "healing their hidden wounds". www.operationwarriorshield.com.