Recently I offered a workshop about the reality of getting older and what it means for each of us. Participants were interested to learn there are stages to accepting our own aging, stages that we all go through. Understanding what you’re experiencing, and that how you feel is common among many of us, can make it easier to grow older with joy — to embrace fearless aging.
What tools can you add to your life skills toolbox to age gracefully? Start by acknowledging that getting older is a normal part of life. And similar to how you filled your toolbox over the years — building a career, forging relationships, parenting — you can learn to age well.
Stage 1: Face the facts.
The truth is that getting old is not popular. Our culture is youth-centric. It’s all about trying to be young, look young, act young. Rarely does the media show us role models of older women who are actively engaged in their own lives, pursuing their own agendas — who are not only doting grandmothers.
With the not-so-subtle message that aging is to be avoided at all costs, naturally you try to ignore your muscles aching, joints creaking, and skin sagging. We pretend that if we don’t acknowledge the truth, we won’t get old.
The first step to aging well is to face up to the fact that we are aging all the time. From the day we’re born, we’re getting older and, if we’re fortunate, we eventually become elderly. But that’s not the end. It’s the beginning of a new chapter!
Be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking you already know everything there is to know. Don’t believe that everything good that is going to happen in your life is in the past. Instead, anticipate the engaging and interesting years ahead.
Stage 2: Draft a plan.
With a realistic perspective of your age, and an optimistic view of your future, you can prepare for aging. Accept that getting older has its good and bad sides and make a plan now to take care of yourself later.
Plan for how you want to grow old. Think about potential caregivers. Talk to others who’ve walked this path ahead of you and learn what resources are available. Facing the truth of aging empowers you to become a problem-solver, weighing options and practicing self-determination. Learn what your choices are so when the time comes to make decisions, you have already done your homework.
Do you feel anxious about your appearance, abilities, status, achievements? Do you wonder what lies ahead? Share your experiences with others. You’ll discover how common your concerns are and perhaps see yourself in a new light. You’ve moved through many transitions at other stages in your life. Aging is just another stage of self-growth.
Stage 3: Get proactive.
Once you’ve accepted your age and drafted a plan for your future, you’re freed to age fearlessly! Start living the next stage of life. Meet new people, make more friends, pursue interests, read, learn, and grow continuously.
Our media may not offer many examples of vital and compelling older women but look to those you already know. Use your imagination. Visualize the person you want to be. Don’t worry about what others think of you; just be real and share yourself from your heart. There is so much more to life that you are yet to discover, so much possibility for joy and tender connection.
And if you want to learn more, stay tuned for news about Fearless Aging events in 2019!