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Aging: It’s a State of Mind

Personal Perspective: Aging is not just about your chronological age.

 Karolina Grabowska / Pexels
Source: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

Past the age of 60, there can be more than one way to look at aging. One is to envision the joys of no longer working—which sounds like heaven to many. It might mean taking more vacations. Or perhaps just doing nothing but relaxing—at least for a good, long while.

Another is to feel you’ve got a limited number of years left and it might be a good time to figure out who and what you really want to be. Sound daunting? It shouldn’t. Each day, week, and month that lies before you can contain endless possibilities.

Yet another is to dread the idea of death. The pandemic left some of us terrified that the virus would take us first, but we were to find that it affected people of all age groups. And that while we may have needed to be more cautious than others, we could get through the isolation and mask-wearing without a lot of fanfare.

When you were in your 20s, do you recall how you viewed people the age you are now? Millennials and Gen Zers have grown up in an era marked by sweeping change. So their milestones, especially when it comes to their later years, no doubt look different than ours do.

Personally speaking, I have never been much of a planner unless it has to do with travel. For that, I will move mountains just so that I can feel the giddy excitement of a journey drawing near. What I would do with my life, however, was not a subject that occupied my mind.

I basically believed that either circumstance would lead me to wherever I was supposed to go, or I would take steps to make things happen. In my early 50s, after nearly losing my life to a tubal pregnancy, seeing 9/11 happen before my eyes on TV one morning, and coming to the gut-wrenching realization that my husband was not meant to be my life partner, I simply changed my own life. I did it by divorcing, relocating, socializing with people I needed to be with, and eventually re-marrying—to a man who had unwittingly been waiting in the wings for decades to get to know me better. My mantra since then has always been: “Who’d a thunk?”

Big and small miracles simply seemed to find me wherever I went. Was it circumstance, or did I make that happen? I will never know, but I will never take any of it for granted.

By 62 I had worked for an airline, sold real estate, become a journalist, then a sales trainer, then a freelance writer. Today I am a voice actor, narrating audiobooks, giving the accents and characters that have always resided within me a place to show their stuff. Each new pursuit has become a fulfilling episode in its own right, but “retirement” was not a word that ever entered my mind.

Seems I failed to prescribe to the education-job-marriage-child-retirement-downtime model. Because life is so elastic, people in their 60s and 70s start new careers and new relationships all the time, while younger generations can now achieve a life of balance long before age 65. It’s a whole new ball game.

If you think of the brain as a muscle that needs exercise, what can you do for your mental health, memory, and sharpness? Learn a new language? Find a new physical pursuit like biking, golfing, or that wildly popular pursuit of pickleball. Garden? Or choose a charity that resonates with who you are and what you believe?

Society seems to create deadlines for everything, but it doesn’t wash with a lot of us anymore. According to the Stanford Center of Longevity, up to 50 percent of 5-year-olds in the U.S. today are expected to live to 100. If these people decide 65 is old, they might have to consider themselves to be elderly for nearly 40 years. It’s mind-boggling.

When you see an older person who seems animated, active, and happy, why not take the time to find out what physical, mental, and community activities keep them engaged? Chances are good that they will tell you that inside, they feel around age 35. Despite hearing about friends, family, and celebrities dying at their age every year, thoughts of death are not top-of-mind preoccupations, because they’ve still got so much to do.

It’s kind of like that old saying about how old you’d be by the time you got your academic degree if you started college in your 50s. How old would you be by then if you didn’t? I call it the zero-sum equation. There is really nothing to lose by putting yourself out there.

If you’ve been through something that could have potentially shortened the amount of time you had on this earth, you might be keenly sensitive about the gift of aging, because you have experienced the ultimate wake-up call. While we all know death can come at any time, perhaps those of us who flirted with it tend to appreciate the present a tad more.

So cut yourself a break. Your journey still has a lot of adventure in store. Follow your own North Star. Do what you love, brush off your skills, and most of all, give yourself credit for what you’ve already done.

Cultivate your own garden, because you've got this one time to go around. Just like those saplings that begin to poke through the dirt, each moment can bring something new and wondrous. You just have to watch for it.

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