In our journey through life, each of us has selected our own individual and personal pathway for successful living. When it comes to aging, how will this passage impact us? What can we do to make the best of our lives into our 60s, 70s, and beyond?
To start our discovery, how would you answer these two questions?
Question One: What does “being older” mean to you?
Question Two: What is your pathway for successful living?
To serve as your compass, explore these pathways on meaningful aging as mapped out by the following individuals.
Insights from Elaine Ambrose (age: 60 something)
- Being older: Being older brings a powerful combination of positive and negative realities. The best truth about being older is that I have more freedom with my time. My children are grown, I am working from home in a career I love, and I have acquired a tremendous amount of wisdom from my life’s experiences. I no longer try to please everyone. I accept the fact that people have different opinions, and I respect their choices. I hope they respect mine. If they don’t, I consider it their problem. The negative facts about aging are centered around my physical body. I look at photographs of me from twenty and thirty years ago and realize I didn’t appreciate the assets of youth. Now I’m relying on my sense of humor to carry me past the mirror. My hair is thin and gray, my eyesight is weak, I need hearing aids, and I can’t lose weight. My joints ache, and I’m tired. Accepting the physical changes has been difficult, but I avoid melancholy feelings by maintaining an attitude of gratitude. I have lived longer than my father and younger brother. I continue to believe the Latin challenge: Carpe Diem – Seize the Day.
- My pathway for successful living: I am learning to avoid confrontation. I am active on Social Media, and I used to be tempted to jump into the latest chaotic discussion about what is wrong with the world and what villain of the day is responsible for all the angst. No one wins in those discussions and no minds are changed. Instead of listening to the news every morning, I turn on favorite musical stations from Pandora or Spotify. I listen to a variety of inspirational or happy songs, and have found this is the perfect way for me to start the day. My pathway for successful living includes gratitude, humor, using my natural talents, and loving my family and friends. As trite as it may seem, I believe the world has beauty and joy. I choose to take the path toward the light and avoid the dark. Finally, I am older but I’m not done yet.
Insights from Mimi Cunningham (age: 60 something)
- Being older: Somewhere along my journey to becoming an older person I realized the sum of my experiences, both wonderful and trying, gave me wisdom and strengthened my faith that God was in charge of my life every moment. Wisdom guides me. Faith protects me. The two are intertwined.
- My pathway for successful living: Living successfully is a mindset. As a child my mother always told me I needed a “three-ring circus”. Sometimes I exhausted her! That “circus” is alive and well now as evidenced by my monthly bucket list of things I want to do with people I love and enjoy. My measure of personal success means working, sharing and helping others, having a positive vision of what’s next, learning continuously and realizing age is not a barrier but a gift. Above all I am (mostly) grateful for all things. Physical activity and healthy eating are my life-long habits quietly in the background.
Insights from Ruth Karpen (age: 60 something)
- Being older: “Being older” means knowing yourself better, not caring so much about what other people think, and being more selective in how you spend your time and with whom.
- My pathway for successful living: If I had to describe a “pathway” I have followed — and one that has become more clear and direct as I have gotten older — is the search for a spiritual center that will keep me focused on what matters beyond myself and that will guide me, reliably, all the way to the end of life. I have traveled down many spiritual paths over the last 45 years or so, and I have finally settled on one that I can walk along with confidence.
Insights from Mary Smith ((age: 80 something)
- Being older: I don’t see myself in terms of being “older” or “younger.” My age is irrelevant to me. For most of my adult life, I have focused on a balanced and healthy approach to daily living. I try to eat healthy foods, sleep 7 to 8 hours a day, drink plenty of water, exercise on a regular basis, surround myself with positive people, and laugh a lot. Throughout the years, I have adjusted my attitude and behavior with my circumstances and not my age. For example, when my husband was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in his 60s, I changed our diet based upon his food restrictions. I live for the moment, plan for the future, and make it a point to learn from but not dwell in the past.
- My pathway for successful living: My pathway to successful living is simple. For most of my adult life, I have been committed to healthy eating, keeping my mind active with learning, and going to church each Sunday. I make it a point to walk each day, volunteer, and spend time with my family and friends. I am an avid reader and enjoy learning new things each day. I keep my heart open to the beauty of living.
Insights from Diane Ronayne (age: 70 something)
- Being older: “Being older” references time relative to some other time. Each day we live, we are older than the day before, no matter what our age. When we were kids and teens, we couldn’t wait to get older! As the decades flew by, we Boomers were always the majority of the U.S. population, so we figured what happened to us must be the norm. Now we consider 70 the “new 50.” Our parents would have been amazed! I have friends in their 90s, 80s and every other decade. I’m older than some, younger than others, and that’s how it should be. However, as my favorite author, 89-year-old Ursula K. LeGuin, says in her latest book, No Time to Spare, “If I’m ninety and believe I’m forty-five, I’m headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.” As I prepare to serve on my 50th college reunion committee, I’m aware of a growing need to sift through what I’ve learned and pass on a few observations before I’m outta here.
- My pathway for successful living:“Successful living” can be defined in many ways. And perhaps differently on any given day. Feeling at ease with myself and others, competent in what I do, honest and value-driven in my relationships and curious about the world are ways I define “successful living” for myself today. Feeling grateful and compassionate brings joy. Continuing to offer something useful to others brings satisfaction. Laughing and moving about maintain health. The pathway? Just like every other journey: Successful living begins with a single step–a single conscious step–and the determination to keep plodding along, seeking assistance and advice, making friends and being a friend, focusing on goals and avoiding distractions as much as possible.
Insights from Patricia Flanigan (age: 60 something)
- Being older: Before retiring, I didn’t pay much attention to “being older.” Yes, with each birthday after age 30, there was the annual lamenting of one more year added to my life, but these thoughts were fleeting. In reality, I was simply too busy with a demanding job and family obligations to focus much on anything else. The traditional “aging” signs of gray hair, memory loss, wrinkles, high blood pressure, sleepless nights, and more aches and pains were attributed to a stressful career. It wasn’t until I retired that I had the time to focus on me – just me – and to explore new ways to live and age well.
- My pathway for successful living: In my journey through life, I recently embarked upon a remarkably rewarding and fulfilling pathway for successful living. My initial step was to acknowledge and accept that I was getting older. I made a conscious effort to embrace ME – imperfections and all. Moving forward, I have begun to read lots of scientific and not so scientific information on aging to more readily understand what its means to be an “older” adult. With each milestone, I am evaluating who and what I am, where I want to go with my life, and how I want to get there. Focusing on my spiritual, mental, and physical well-being, I am applying my years of experience and wisdom with my new found knowledge to change my old attitudes and behaviors of younger years. I am fully committed to thrive with aging by adding an abundance of love, joy, and mindfulness along the way.