“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”Benjamin Franklin
Aging. A rite of passage. Ah, yes. Waking up to the aches and pains, looking in the mirror and not fully comprehending who’s looking back. I not so fondly remember standing in the checkout line at the supermarket and the cashier saying in a very loud voice, “Would you like to take advantage of our senior discount today?” A perfect opportunity to embrace aging, and I must admit, at the time, I wasn’t ready.
But, if we are lucky and blessed, aging occurs no matter the mindset. We can remain in a state of avoidance and denial, or jump in (better yet, step very gently to avoid a fall) feet first and go for it, positively anticipating the changes of aging that are inevitable.
There have been times when I have experienced “the invisible factor” that comes with getting older. Whether it be from societal cues or self-perpetuated, there can be a sense of feeling invisible, unnoticed or less valued or pertinent. When I speak with men who are retired, I often hear pained and perplexing questions about identity. One of the first things a person usually asks another when they initially meet is, “What do you do?” The promise of a “happy retirement” can seem to be a cruel myth. Is it true that we’re only valued when creatively contributing to the world we inhabit? With age can come an opportunity to find new and more purposeful avenues of achievement.
It goes without saying that you should be proactive about your physical health. Scheduling annual physicals, dental visits, mammogram and colonoscopy screenings is a must. Taking prescribed medications and eating and sleeping well is all part of a proactive biopsychosocial health plan.
The wisdom that is gained from a myriad of life experiences and imparting them to others is the crux of our emotional legacy. The challenges of aging such as increased anxiety, loneliness, worry, the “wish I would haves” need a healthy reframe. Issues related to grief and loss and fears of mortality can always be shared with a trusted family member, doctor, or psychotherapist. As with any stage of life, there’s always support available. You don’t have to go at it alone.
There’s no better time to fully understand and apply the “live in the moment” mantra than when we are older. Celebrating life one day at a time with abundant gratefulness is key, no matter the challenge. Stay interested and curious. Always remain open in mind, spirit, heart and soul, as learning never ends.
As the Chassidic saying goes, “For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of the harvest.” So, harvest away, and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC# 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.