Stereotypes would have us believe being old is any of the following:
~over 30 years old
~no longer sexual
~unable to keep up both physically and mentally
All of these ideas of old age create myths about and barriers to who we really are as old people.
Friendships can help define the aging experience.
One thing that has helped me feel more alive and less old is having a wide diversity of friends. About a third of my friends are my age or older. Another third I could be a mother to, and the third group I could be a grandmother to.
My friends in their 20’s and 30’s provide the most stimulation because they’re always talking about or experiencing things I’ve never heard of before. They often can enlighten me on technical issues and problems I may encounter, and they seem to have the most current suggestions for good books and movies.
I’ve spoken with so many people my age who are devastated when their friends begin to get sick and die, and, yes indeed, this is an unfortunate aspect of aging. Having multi-generational friends, however, helps as older friends become less mobile or pass away.
Happiness in aging
I have found a different kind of happiness as I’ve aged. It’s less exciting but more satisfying in a quiet and comforting way. It feels good to know I don’t have to get riled up to have fun or to express myself or to be in awe. Simple things provide an immense amount of pleasure and challenge. While I may not want to downhill ski anymore, I am happy to listen with interest and enthusiasm to someone else share their skiing stories or experiences. You can count on me to stand on the sidelines and cheer you on. No, I probably don’t want to help you paint the exterior of your home, but I’ll make sandwiches for lunch for the workers. Also, I may have less interest in dancing all night, but I’ll keep the drinks flowing (alcoholic or otherwise) at the table when you return from the dance floor after each set.
Heavy reminders such as illness and death remind us elders every day that time marches on. We can easily feel in our bodies the restrictions that may limit our activities more over time. Do you let these factors define what being old means to you?
Do we get old, infirm, and then die? Of course, we all do. Do we need to focus all our energies on those aspects of the aging process? You know the answer is no. I believe the longer we focus on healthy living and staying engaged with all our friends, including the younger ones, the longer we’ll be described by limiting and often incorrect myths. Sometimes it takes extra effort to stay positively focused.