Vignettes on Aging – Engaging

As verbs go, engaging is a relatively low-key one. Other than the marriage-related action, engaging means connecting with or utilizing or making something happen. Why is this word mentioned here?

Engaging in things, in people, in activities, etc., is important, especially as we age.

For example, Nancy has been maintaining a long-distance pen pal relationship for many years with a young woman who entered the prison system while she was pregnant. Over the years, Nancy has provided advice, encouragement, and a sounding board for the detained mother. As Nancy has aged, however, writing and typing have become difficult for her. The temptation to curtail the pen pal communications exists for Nancy, and she wonders why she should continue to engage.

As long as Nancy continues to get something out of the relationship – including the support and guidance she’s giving another person – there is benefit in her efforts. If she’s engaging in something she believes is healthy for her and/or others, it’s an important and worthy activity.

In our youth, the feel-goods, the kudos, and the rewards only came with a solid outcome, a stellar performance. With age, however, it’s the effort that has replaced the outcome in terms of value. Instead of the brass ring as the prize, it’s the trying or stretching ourselves out to go for it that is the reward … because we are engaged in a beneficial activity. For us elders, phrases like “better luck next time,” are replaced with “at least you tried.”

People not engaged take their joy from others. That’s not a terrible thing, but it’s less rewarding and can represent a sense of being on autopilot. A person who is engaged in life is more interesting to spend time with, and is generally more upbeat and alive.

Are you engaged? Is what you’re engaged in fun and beneficial (to you and/or someone else)?