As we grow older we gain new insights and experiences that give us a better perspective on the important things in life. A good friend of mine stopped by my office one morning and while we were catching up, we began having a conversation about getting older. Of course, us being women, the conversation revolved more around how our beauty is fading and how much we missed being younger. In the midst of our conversation I had a memory of something my grandmother once told me, “the most important thing you can do as you get older is age gracefully.” This got me thinking, what does it mean to age gracefully?
When I repeated the phrase about aging gracefully to my friend she just looked at me with a shocked expression and replied, “Well, what if I don’t want to?” How could I blame her for not wanting to grow old? It can seem like such a daunting, inescapable thing. Looking back on life, it’s like you jumped from childhood to adulthood in a blink of an eye. Next thing you know, you have children and grandchildren and you’ve made friends with the person in the mirror staring back at you, wrinkles and all.
Growing older is not something to run from; it is something to be embraced. Aging gracefully can be liberating. It is about accepting and appreciating your body and embracing the natural aging process. It’s about taking pride in the fact that you have gained an abundance of precious memories and experiences that have brought you to this specific point in your life. But, doing so is no easy task especially in western culture where youth is fetishized and staying young is the ultimate goal. Nowadays, the term anti-aging is thrown around constantly in the health and beauty industries so much so that many people find themselves trapped in a cycle of insecurity and fear of getting older. This cycle of negative thinking often leads to spending hundreds of dollars on face creams, Botox, and other anti-aging “solutions”. However, that chase for being forever young is futile. In order to live out a peaceful life it is imperative to accept ourselves as we age and do so gracefully. In fact, we can learn something from other cultures about aging gracefully. In manly cultures around the world, getting older is honored and celebrated.
In Native American culture elders are respected for their wisdom and life experiences, and it’s commonly expected that elders pass down their knowledge to the younger generation. In India, the elders are seen as the head of the family and they play an important role in raising their grandchildren. In fact, in both Indian and Chinese culture sending elders of the family to a nursing home is shameful. The takeaway is that there is a highly respected tradition of learning from and honoring those of old age. As we age we can do the same by embracing our own honor and taking the responsibility of passing on our wisdom to others.
I like to think of the natural process of aging a growing plant. Like a plant, as time goes by we grow faster and develop in different ways producing all sorts of beautiful things. There is a certain beauty found in recognizing and submitting ourselves to our natural capabilities in every phase of our lives. I believe in life we must travel the road that is laid out for us with patience and dignity. We have so much to be thankful for in life whether we are young or old, and we need to stop and smell the roses more often. We must breathe in more life until we are so full of it we can only express light and love, letting go of the darkness that surrounds the term “growing older, and surrendering to the light of life.
Let’s get out of the anti-aging mindset and into the aging gracefully mindset. It’s time to release the thought that aging is a bad thing because getting older is really a gift. Be grateful for the journey of life, for the years behind you, and the years ahead.