“I’m so excited about turning 60! (or 70, 80, 90)” said no one, ever. Why is that? Why do we anticipate our early birthdays with such excitement yet dread the milestone birthdays in our later years?
All too often, aging is viewed as a synonym for loss. Loss of health, loss of abilities, loss of loved ones, loss of life’s work. Yes, the climb does seem to get steeper and more challenging as we approach the summit of life.
Does that mean that we should just buckle our seat belts and prepare for the worst? Become increasingly focused on the negatives with each passing year? Act like a quality inspector who is compensated for pointing out the defects in life? Talk incessantly about our medical challenges? I beg you…NO!
Is it really possible to embrace our later years with joy and to age gracefully? Call me Pollyanna, but I believe the answer is ABSOLUTELY YES.
But how? Here are 7 keys to successful aging:
1. Be Intentional. Decide what you want for your life. Spend some time prayerfully writing down a vision for yourself in ten years, whether that is at 60, 70, 80 or 90. Who do you want to be? Who does God want you to be? (Hopefully, those visions align!) As Lewis Carroll said: “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
If you’re really brave, try writing your own obituary. That is a sobering, but very useful way to define what really matters to you and to make sure you’re on the right track.
2. Take ownership for your health. The Second Law of Thermodynamics will be increasingly evident in your life if you don’t. Entropy is real. Be proactive and make wise choices about what you eat and drink and make exercise and adequate rest essential parts of your daily life. Be a good steward of the truly incredible body that God has entrusted to you. Is it easy to establish new, healthier habits? No. Is it worth it? 100% yes! One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children and grandchildren is a healthy YOU to be part of their lives for many years!
3. Focus on others. Corrie Ten Boom wisely said: “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation.” A common vortex for those in the later half of life seems to be the tendency of staying solely focused on one’s own family. Should they be our #1 earthly priority? Yes. Should they be our only focus? Probably not. The wisdom that you have gained over a lifetime of experiences (and mistakes) can make an incredible difference in others’ lives.
4. Stay curious and keep learning. Spend some time reading about the importance of curiosity. Study after study demonstrates how essential curiosity is for good health and long life.
5. Maintain an attitude of gratitude. One of the best habits you can develop is the practice of keeping a daily gratitude journal. Discipline yourself to identify and record 4 or 5 reasons to be grateful every day. Open your eyes. You’ll find them. Your outlook will change over time when you are looking for the positive aspects of life on a daily basis.
6. Pick a few role models who are aging gracefully. Study and model the behavior of those who are thriving and growing in their later years. Then, become an example yourself of what’s possible! Encourage others by the way you live your life.
7. Leave nothing unsaid. Take the time to write letters to those you love. Tell your children, grandchildren and dearest friends what they mean to you. Affirm, in writing, what is so unique and special about those you love. If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it's that life truly is a vapor and we never know what tomorrow holds.
“Autumn is really the best of the seasons; and I’m not sure that old age isn’t the best part of life.”
– C.S. Lewis
PHOTO CREDIT: JANA/JIM FLETCHER