As a journalist with more than four decades of experience, I can honestly say that it still excites me to sit down with someone and talk to them about who they are and what they know.
I’ve always been curious. I’ve been told by my brothers that the constant refrain of my childhood—“Why?”—drove them crazy when we were growing up. But that drive to get to the bottom of things led to a career that has filled me with purpose and wowed me at so many points in my life. It’s also enabled me to talk to some of the most incredible experts about the topics that have piqued my interest.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about aging. I recently turned 66 years old, and while I feel great and I’m grateful to have the gift of my health, I can’t help but think of the fragility of time and how fleeting it can be. I never really think of myself as old, but I’m learning that that’s a mistake. Recognizing my age allows me to look at things from a different perspective. It helps me see that in fact, the opportunities available to me now are way better than the ones I had when I was in my 20s. It allows me to embrace that while age may just be a number, there is no time to waste. It inspires me to fill my days with people and work that lights me up, keeps me learning, fuels my curiosity, and excites me.
The fact that it took me until age 66 to recognize the true gift of getting older feels like a big, flashing sign that we need to radically reframe the way we think about aging in this country. So, I did what I know best: I called some of the country’s leading experts on aging—as well as some of my friends who are doing it well and setting the kind of example on how to get older that I want to follow—and I interviewed them. What I learned is that all of us deserve to believe our best days are in front of us, and all of us can take part in re-writing the old narrative that aging is something we should dread.
Here are some of the biggest gems of wisdom I picked up when interviewing dozens of people about how to age well, and the advice I’m putting into practice in my own life.
1. I’m deleting the phrase “anti-aging” from my vocabulary.
When you really think about this term “anti-aging,” it’s ridiculous! (Especially when you see 20-somethings advertising anti-aging creams—I mean, really?) Getting older is not only a fact of life, it’s a gift! You’re lucky if you get to age, and even luckier if you get to age with good health. Why do we talk about it like it’s something we shouldn’t want to do, or something we should fear?
When I asked Jamie Lee Curtis about this—a woman who has been very outspoken about the genocide on natural beauty—she told me she is pro-aging. “I want to age with intelligence and grace and verve and energy,” she said. “I don’t want to hide from it, as if it’s a bad thing.”
I couldn’t agree more! That’s not to say we shouldn’t do things that make us feel (and look!) good. When my daughters text me a tip about a new, clean moisturizer or eye cream they’re using, I order it right away. I want to feel and look my most vibrant. But my end goal isn’t to look as young as possible, which is what the “anti-aging” movement would have us all on a mission to accomplish. Instead, my mission is to age with curiosity about the process—and do it in a way that inspires me.
2. I’m saying “yes” to things that scare me.
I spoke to William Shatner a few weeks after he went to space at age 90 and I asked him if he was afraid. His response? “Hell yeah I was afraid! And I said yes to it anyway.” That really inspired me.
Taking on the identity of “Grandmother” was initially scary to me. I had to confront my idea of what a grandma is and what one looks like. I judged the word, and I judged myself. Yet once I learned to embrace it, the role has made me so much more joyful. It’s reintroduced fun and games and songs into my life. I absolutely love being Mana G to Lyla, to my son-in-law’s son, Jack, and to another grand-baby who’s on the way!
I want my kids to see me embrace new ideas, new identities, and new mindsets. I want them to see me try new things. If I’m feeling a little fearful, I try to ask myself what it is I’m really afraid of—and hold my feet to the fire when figuring out if that fear is rational or not. I know that saying “yes” to new things builds confidence, puts me in a beginner’s mindset, and enables me to keep learning. These things are so important—especially as we age.
Last year, I started a food company with my son, Patrick. I can’t tell you how many people told me I was crazy becoming an entrepreneur at 65. If I’m honest, I thought it might be a little crazy, too. But I said yes anyway—and creating Mosh has been a wild, wonderful ride. It’s helped me feel like I’m building something meaningful. As Shatner told me, “If you’re living your life as you get older and you’re frightened by things, you’ve gotta say yes. And you’ve gotta do that even though you’d rather sit and watch TV.”
3. I’m learning how to sit with grief.
The simple truth is that getting older means you will experience loss—and the resulting grief. I’ve lost several people close to me in the last year. I know so many others who’ve lost loved ones, too. What I know for sure is that riding those waves of grief is tough work, but it will teach you that you can survive.
When I interviewed clinical psychologist and self-proclaimed “emotional fitness expert” Emily Anhalt, Psy.D., about grief, she talked about the importance of learning how to mourn and grieve both the big losses (like the people we love) and the smaller, everyday losses (like old identities, or opportunities that pass us by). “By taking the time to honor these things passing, and to honor our feelings about that, we’ll be able to step more fully into the choices we make and whatever awaits us,” she said.
These days, I try to see my grief as a reflection of who and what I’ve loved. Grief has a way of putting things in perspective—of prompting me to reflect on who and what matters most to me. When I’m brave enough to sit with my grief rather than distract myself from it, it clarifies so much. It inspires me to step more fully into all of the choices I make and helps me feel more at peace with the unknowns of my future.
One of the things about aging is that you must face the idea of death—something none of us will outrun. I’m fascinated with how people approach death, and I feel like there is so much to learn in this space. I’ve had the honor of being with both of my parents and my great friend, Charlotte, as they transitioned out of this world and on to their next great adventure. It’s scary to be with someone when they die, and it’s also an honor. People who are approaching the end of their lives have so much to teach us not only about how to face the end with courage, grace, and peace—but also how to live.
4. I’m working on things that bring me joy and give me purpose.
Retirement was a concept that was completely foreign to my parents, so I never grew up with the construct that so many people do: work with the goal of not working at a certain age. When I talked to Martha Beck, she said that this common plight—spending much of your life doing something you didn’t want to do—leads to a lot of the crankiness that often comes with aging. Not only that, but going through the motions feeling somewhat rudderless may actually shave years off your life. Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, told me there’s scientific evidence that maintaining purpose in life is worth up to eight years of life expectancy!
My parents worked tirelessly on causes that were important to them, and I’m trying to follow their lead. I founded the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) to raise awareness about this devastating disease and figure out why it impacts so many more women than men. I built Shriver Media to produce documentaries, films, and all kinds of content that inform, inspire, and ignite people to build a better world. I write a weekly newsletter, The Sunday Paper, to help people make sense of the week that was and give them hope for the week to come. I run The Open Field book imprint, with a goal of publishing voices that rise above the noise and light the way forward for others.
All of this work feeds my creativity and keeps me curious. It makes me feel alive. (It helps that I work with my kids—and people young enough to be my kids!—on all of my initiatives!) It makes me feel like I’m doing my part to move humanity forward in some way. And it definitely keeps me far too inspired, motivated, and busy to feel cranky!
5. I meditate every day.
Life is full. It’s full of things that fill me with wonder and awe—and also things that let me down and make me sad. With so much going on in the world these days, it’s more important than ever to take a beat and to do something that helps you quiet your racing mind and feel just a little more grounded.
If you’ve ever sat by yourself and focused on your breath for a few moments, you know the transformative power it can have—its unique ability to help you stop thinking about the past or spiraling into the future and embrace the present moment. This is the gift of meditation, something Deepak Chopra, M.D., told me is a good way to immediately improve your quality of life. And I will tell you that after a few years of a daily meditation practice, I couldn’t agree more. It’s the best way I know how to befriend my own mind, connect with my spirituality, and feel OK with everything—the good, the bad, and the uncertain.
Some days, my meditation practice is somewhat traditional, where I sit cross-legged and repeat a mantra. Other days, I sneak in 5 minutes of breath work between meetings, or I go for a quiet walk around my neighborhood. Sometimes, singing and dancing with my granddaughter feels like the most powerful meditation I could possibly do. No matter how it looks, meditating is an easy way to press the pause button in my mind and get a little more intentional about how I’m showing up for myself and for others.
One of my biggest takeaways from talking to so many people about aging with health, purpose, and joy is that it’s possible for all of us to be a living, breathing example of how to age well. We all have the power to reframe the way we think about aging and change the narrative so it includes more excitement and less dread. We have a unique opportunity to set an example for our children and grandchildren, and teach them that there’s a wide-open field in front of them that’s filled with possibility, no matter how old they are. I know I’m committed to doing this for my kids and their kids. I hope you’ll join me.
To learn more about how Maria Shriver is changing the way we talk about aging, join her free online event called Radically Reframing Aging: Today’s Groundbreakers on Age, Health, Purpose & Joy. Hosted by Maria Shriver in partnership with Shriver Media and Sounds True, this free 5-day summit features insightful and transformational interviews with world-renowned experts and public figures, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Deepak Chopra, William Shatner, Vanessa Williams, Dr. Frank Lipman, Rob Lowe, Martha Beck, and many more. The summit will be available for free viewing Feb 28-March 4. Click here to register today!
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