Embracing Older Age: Because It Has Its Advantages, Too

aging woman relaxing on patio“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” —Mark Twain

As I discussed in my last article, aging in our culture can be challenging not only due to the inevitable losses associated with changes in our bodies, minds, and lifestyles, but also because we are taught to fight it and defy it. This is a losing battle, and it fritters away our most precious resource—our energy. How can we age gracefully, accept the changes that occur, and even embrace the process?

My first suggestion would be to accept that aging is a necessary part of the human condition. When we spend our energy fighting something—especially when it can’t be changed—we exhaust ourselves and dwell in a pretty negative place. The Buddha has been quoted as saying, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” In other words, accepting the loss and pain that accompany older age is healthy and necessary. But don’t avoid it or dwell on it, either—use your energy to enjoy the moment at hand, and appreciate what you have. Think for a moment how much energy (and time and money!) you’ll save when you aren’t trying to fight gravity, apply the latest anti-aging serum, or force yourself to live on tofu. Stay active, but choose activities that feed you in and of themselves rather than dutifully plodding through those reps at the gym (unless you truly love them).

Another thing I suggest is to cultivate a habit of observing the good things in your life. As a matter of practice, I invite my psychotherapy clients to start our sessions by bringing attention to the things they feel good about (most of the session will not be dedicated to what’s “bad” or wrong). Taking the time to appreciate those positives—from the tiny to the huge—creates a counterbalance to the negativity that fills our heads most of the time and can even shake up our brain chemistry. But don’t be surprised if it’s difficult at first. It takes time to develop a new habit.

And truly … aren’t there good things about growing older? For instance, you don’t really care as much about what people think, so you feel freer to speak your mind. You have often learned to pick your battles and recognize when to let go. Though the excitement of young love and infatuation may seem a distant memory, you no longer have to be a slave to adolescent urges; instead, you can enjoy a quiet evening with a good book without feeling the world is passing you by. And so much more.

One of the best ways to embrace aging is to do what you love. If age prevents you from engaging in the activities you’ve enjoyed in the past, find a new one. And ideally be with other people at least some of the time. Whether you join a religious group, volunteer organization, or babysit your grandkids, you are continuing to experience life—not simply look back at the past. No one ever said that aging is easy, but it doesn’t have to be miserable.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lillian Rozin, MFA, LCSW, RYT, therapist in Media, Pennsylvania

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • rachel

    rachel

    October 14th, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    Well it sure beats the alternative!

  • Timmy

    Timmy

    October 15th, 2013 at 12:28 AM

    It surprises me to see how some people in their 50s and 60s fight aging.They cannot really come to terms that they are no longer the 30 or 40 year olds they thought they were and are doing everything they can to close their eyes to the fact.That only make sit worse for them.Because not only are they not going to go back to being 30 or 40 but are also losing their times of being the right 50 or 60 year old.

  • Racine

    Racine

    October 15th, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    I think that many people feel as they get older that things stop working and that they are just going to be subjected to a life of dullness and boring, and that doesn’t have to be true!
    I think that the time as you get older means that you actually begin to have more time to do the things that you love and discover new things that you never knew that you loved before!
    Come on, for most of the us the kids are grown and out of the house, we don’t have to work as much anymore amd we have a lot more time to ourselves. That’s the perfect time to start finding out what we have been missing out on all of those years when we were so busy taking care of everyone else! ;0

  • perry

    perry

    October 15th, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    I love to spend most of my time around positive people, not those who are always grumbling about the things in life that can’t be changed.

    And guess what? The aging process is one of those things. What good does it do to complain about how bad it is when if you took just a moment to appreciate all that you have been given then you might just see the beauty that longevity of life has provided you with.

  • G.J

    G.J

    October 16th, 2013 at 1:24 AM

    I’m 68 and let me tell you, the past decade has to be the best one I have ever had. There is just so much more you can infer and understand. Guess the adage of grey hair meaning wisdom is not all a lie ;)

    There is time to do the things I have wanted to and thankfully, money too. Yes, physically there is a bit of change but isn’t that always happening? Even in 30s and 40s we find that we’re not as agile as we were in our 20s. So changes do happen but good things happen at the same time. There is some bad and a whole lot of good. No reason to be skeptical of old age if you ask me!

  • campbell

    campbell

    October 16th, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Surely I am not the only person out there actually having a hard time with the reality of getting older?

    I am glad that everyone else is having such a positive experience but for me, this is for the birds! I hurt, I am lonely, and I feel like so many of my freedoms have been taken away from me that I don’t really even feel like myself anymore.

    I hope someone can give me some pointers about how to accept this whole aging thing a little better because right now I just feel like this is impossible.

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