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Aging Gracefully: How to Embrace the Golden Years on Your Own Terms

Aging Gracefully: How to Embrace the Golden Years on Your Own Terms

What does aging gracefully mean to you? For some seniors, it means accepting the number of candles on your birthday cake without trying to look or act younger than you are. But for others, especially those with physical challenges, it's a euphemism that downplays the hardships of growing older. Yet, aging gracefully is possible for all older people. It comes down to attitude, not what you look like or what activities you can or cannot do.

Of course, today's seniors don't have a manual for how to act in the later stages of life, nor do they have many great role models. As a society, we're still in relatively new territory when it comes to answering the question, "What is aging gracefully?" In 1900, the average life expectancy was 47 years old. And as recently as 1950, it was only 58. So for generations, most people with gray hair were considered “old” Today, that's no longer the case.

We can make our own rules now. You grow old gracefully by choosing your own attitude and approach to change. Everyone is different. We all have unique challenges and strengths.

Consider the origin of the word "grace": It comes from the Latin term "gratus," which means pleasing. Many seniors say that one benefit of growing older is that they realize they don't have to please anyone but themselves. So no matter how you approach the inevitable changes that come with age, it's important to feel good about yourself. The senior years are a time to celebrate your accomplishments and the knowledge you've gained through experience.

Aging Gracefully: You Have the Power

One of the most concise and popular aging quotes is from Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect: "The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes."

Although that outlook may not always be achievable when faced with setbacks or physical problems, it's important to remember that focusing on the positive aspects of this stage of life can help make growing older easier. If graceful aging means adapting to changes in a way that reflects our personal values, then remaining positive, open, and flexible is key.

Aging gracefully is definitely possible. Sure, we may need help to overcome certain challenges sometimes. But growing older continues to have its own rewards.

"Don't regret growing older, it's a privilege denied to many." Nobody is sure who first uttered those words, but the sentiment is timeless. Although we're often surrounded by messages telling us that aging is a negative experience, growing older isn't a bad thing (especially considering the alternative).

In fact, our overall happiness levels tend to rise with age. One reason might be that we typically face fewer stressors related to work and relationships as we grow older. But psychologists also speculate that we acquire a more balanced perspective through hard-earned experience.

Growing awareness of our own mortality may help us appreciate our lives more, instead of comparing our circumstances to others and striving for more material things. And research shows that it's our attitude and connection to others that influence our satisfaction with our lives. In other words, our feelings about aging can play a big role in how we approach it. That's one reason why many seniors don't see themselves as "old" at all. So if "old age" is not a static stage of life, then the oft-repeated phrase "you're only as young as you feel" may be a good guide to graceful aging. And our ability to remain open to new experiences and to grow and change may also be a key component to aging with dignity.

Under this approach, having strong social connections and pursuing fun activities are important components of graceful aging. It isn't necessarily how well we hide the outward signs of growing older, but how we approach the activities in our daily lives that makes a difference.

But graceful aging doesn't necessarily mean accepting wrinkles and gray hair and learning to love them. Instead, to age gracefully means to pay attention to what makes you feel best,

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life."—Proverbs 16:31

Does that proverb make you laugh? For some people, gray hair represents wisdom and maturity. But most people aren't particularly thrilled if they start going gray early. After all, people with gray hair are often deemed to be "old" for no other reason than the lack of color in their locks.

7 Holistic Tips to Age Gracefully

  • Live in the moment. Like everyone else, you cannot predict life's every turn, so make the most of each moment.

  • Forgive yourself and others

  • Find humor and laugh at yourself

  • Stay curious

  • Be flexible in body and mind

  • Meditate

  • Be grateful Aging gracefully is not just a term meant for old people. Aging, whether you loathe it or love it, has been happening to you since the day you were born. What I have learned in my personal process of aging is that it is less important what people see when they look at me but rather how they feel when they are around me. Maya Angelou (American memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist) said it the best…She said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46: 1-4

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