As I have been living out my 47th year on life, I've been thinking about aging. I've never been someone who is afraid or ashamed to say my age and often say it out loud (possibly so I don't forget how old I am. I do that occassionally). Pretending to be an age other than your own has always seemed silly to me. But more than that, it has made it more difficult for us to share the aging process with our younger family and friends. If we never stop being 29 years old, how can we teach our own children the beauty of aging?
Recently I read an article titled Aging Better with a Little Help From Our Friends: Recalling Lessons Learned from the Experts. In the article, writer Patricia Corrigan asks about aging, "Who taught you how?" That's an interesting question. Who did teach me how? I know I've made a conscious effort to share my aging process with my children, especially my daughter. I want her to be my different ages and remember my experiences so she has something to relate to. I often share with her why I love being the age I am. It is not something to fear. But who taught me? Why am I okay with being the age I am?
Here are a few influences in my life:
My teaching mentors. When I was a young 22 year old in my first teaching position, my mentors were several decades older than me. Actually, one was the exact age I am now. She was returning to teaching after taking years off to care for her children. I remember thinking of her as "old" when I first met her since she was 47, but I soon thought of her as both my peer and my mentor in life. First off, she never mentioned her age as an issue. She got right back into the swing of work and we had some really fun years. She was innovative and honest. I learned from her things about perimenopause that have made me feel quite normal today. Another mentor was in her 50's at the time. She adored her husband after years of marriage. I loved how they were always doing something new- travel, outings, etc. Life was still exciting as was her sex life. Maybe TMI for some, but as a young married woman it was so beneficial to know things didn't have to change with age.
My grandmother: There isn't a day that goes by that my grandmother and her influence over me don't become apparent. I always knew how old my grandmother was. She never hid it from me. My fondest memory of my grandmother was her excitement over a new craft she was working on. I was never too young or old for her to take me to her craft room and show me all the projects she was working on. I loved that she always had something new going on and her excitement radiated. My last conversation with her was one where we both knew she was dying. She said, "Don't worry about me. I have done everything in life that I wanted to do." Some might have thought of my grandmother as a person who wasn't very adventurous, maybe even boring, but she was content with herself and her life. What an amazing gift to have shared with me.
Others: There have definitely been others who have shared their experiences with aging that have left me with a positive feeling about it. There is a woman in her 90's in our neighborhood that gets out with her walker every single day and walks. For me, she has reminded me that movement at all ages is key to aging well.
I think what I like most about aging is knowing who I am. I am very aware of all the positive attributes I have, but after years of experience, I am also aware of the negative. Life is full of adventure no matter what the age and I want to share that with my children and even with my young students. I feel like it is our responsibility to help guide them along. So, don't be ashamed to share your age. It is really important.
Corrigan would often invite friends to her home to get aging advice. Here is some of their advice:
- Talk mostly about your life now, not about the past.
- Travel while you still have the energy and the patience for it.
- Adapt to change or don’t, but understand that everything changes.
- Attend to physical ailments, but don’t obsess about them.
- Wear your good jewelry every day.
What is your best piece of advice for aging?