What age is old?

jenna_and_stefWe’re riding home from Gulf Shores, Alabama. My teen daughter and niece have already fallen asleep in the back seat of the car. At 11 a.m. In bright sunlight. In uncomfortable positions. With the radio on.

Me? I couldn’t even stay asleep last night. At 2 a.m. In a dark room. In a comfortable bed. With the soothing ocean outside.

Does that mean I’m old?

And does how I define ‘old’ determine how I’ll continue to age?

In chapter 6 of Mindfulness, author Ellen Langer suggests that,

The regular and “irreversible” cycles of aging that we witness in the later stages of human life may be a product of certain assumptions about how one is supposed to grow old.

If we didn’t feel compelled to carry out these limited mindsets, we might have a greater chance of replacing years of decline with years of growth and purpose.

So do we jinx ourselves into feeling older than our years because of our preconceived notions? And if so, what can we do about it?

Langer implies one way to age better is to retain responsibility and control over things we can.

Watching someone else do things that we used to do ourselves leads us to feel that we are now incapable of doing them.

This is true even when the only reason for our inaction is outside ourselves (institutional policy, for example).

Other things to do include:

  • reversing memory loss by increasing motivation to remember
  • fighting against stereotypical “doddering old fool” and “poor little old lady” imagery by valuing traits such as wisdom and maturity
  • stop confusing old age and poor health

I don’t know that any of those will help me sleep more like a teenager, but maybe they can help me appreciate that I don’t have to.

Growing older doesn’t have to mean growing worse. I know plenty of older people who remain active, purposed, and healthy.

And I still have decades to go before I catch up with them.

I’m glad I am the age I am. Just old enough.

~   +   ~   +   ~   +   ~   +   ~   +   ~   +   ~   +   ~gulf-shores

Thanking God for these gifts of grace, # 409-418

~ weekend trip to the beach...laughing with teenagers
~ sweet memories...good health
~ being older...but not being the oldest
~ sleeping beside my man...under the sound of the ocean
~ knowing where I'm going at my final age...and Who will meet me there

* * *

Do you feel younger or older than your age?

Join in the conversation at The High Calling on mindful aging.

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