What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. Helen Keller, author
Dr. Robert Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging, estimated that the ability to define your life’s meaning adds to your life expectancy. His study found that individuals who had something meaningful to get up for in the morning, lived longer and were sharper than those who did not.
Sometimes our goals have to change with our abilities. Quilting may replace time spent rigorously weeding a garden. Teaching active children may step aside as you write your memoir. I’m reminded of Helen Keller and Stephen Hawking. Physical challenges need never be a factor as we define ourselves, live meaningful lives, or contribute to society.
Affirmation: I will find ways to live a meaningful life.
Coaching question: What will you do to continue to live a meaningful life as you age?
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Maya Angelou, author
As I speak with women of the Silent and Greatest Generations, I’m learning that attitude is a significant factor in their successful aging. Perhaps, attitude is even a greater influencer than what they eat or how much they exercise.
Maxine, a healthy centenarian with whom I spoke, gave the advice to “live one day at a time.” She embraced the shikata ga nai I wrote about in my last blog—accept what can’t be helped and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Another vibrant woman, age ninety-one, said, “Make it happen.” Her life continues to be built around recognizing needs in her community then addressing the need. As a younger woman, she helped start a church, the local library, park district (including senior center and teen center), women’s club, artists’ association, historical society and museum. The day I interviewed her, she was preparing for an art show and sale.
Affirmation: My attitude contributes to my successful aging.
Coaching questions: What attitudes move you towards aging with grace? What attitudes do you need to tweak?
Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy person has no time to form. Andre Maurois, French author
My next book project (I’m a glutton for punishment) is telling the stories of women from the Greatest and Silent Generations. Basically, women eighty years old and up. After writing a few similar stories for a newspaper, I discovered how rewarding it is to honor these women for what they have accomplished and are accomplishing. In the next few weeks I will have the honor of interviewing two women over 100. I can’t wait to hear their stories!
I haven’t interviewed these women (yet), but if you’re feeling “old,” consider these examples:
— Julia Hawkins, 103, oldest woman to compete on an American track – started running at 100.
— Nola Ochs recently earned her bachelor’s degree at 95 then went on to earn her master’s at 96 – moved into the campus dorms.
—Sister Madonna Bruder has completed over 45 Ironman competitions and continues to compete at 86.
—Harley Davidson rider, Gloria Tramonten Struck, 90, intends to embark on a cross country ride at 100.
—Oldest newly weds are George (103) and Darren (91) Kirby.
It’s not all about “doing,” it’s also about becoming and contributing. More on that another time.
Affirmation: Age is just a number.
Coaching questions: What does age mean to you? How do you feel about growing older? What do you want to accomplish as you age?
Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength. Betty Friedan, author
If you’re in your 60s, 70s, or 80s, here’s some good news. Chances are, you’ve moved beyond the desire for social competition to embracing the importance of social connection. You’re investing in the well-being of others and activities you enjoy. Of course, life events like death of a loved one or poor health can interrupt this arc. But, in the long run, moving away from the treadmill of upper mobility actually makes us happier.
According to Jonathan Rauych, author of The Happiness Curve, “As we age our brains become more weighted toward positivity. These changes can be seen in brain MRI scans. Over time we experience less stress, regret, and emotional volatility.” In other words, with experience and age, we become wiser and have more balance and perspective. Now, isn’t that good news?
Affirmation: I have the capacity to improve with age.
Coaching questions: If you’re in your 60s and beyond, have you experienced greater well-being? What are you doing to move into the “happiness curve?”
The irony is that the more we fight age, the more it shows. Paint on a 50-year-old face brings to mind a Gilbert and Sullivan comic figure. Smooth the cheeks, and suddenly the ear lobes and hands look out of place. Do we run around in October, painting the gold leaves green? Karen DeCrow, American attorney, author, activist and feminist
This is another stand-alone quote. What wisdom DeCrow shares with us. First, that aging is natural and its futile to try to cover it up. Second, the aging face is beautiful, like the gold leaves of Fall.
Those of us who feel fortunate to have lived a long life in the wake of mothers who died young, honor our aging. As the first generation of three who has lived beyond my thirties, every year is gravy, icing on the cake. And now, these Fall, nearly Winter, years of my life are the cherry on top.
Affirmation: I honor the season of life I’m in.
Coaching questions: What season of life are you in? Have you lived past the age your mother died? In what ways do you live your best life while honoring the age and stage you’re in?
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. George Bernard Shaw
It’s time for me to go out and play! Yesterday I had my annual mammogram then a crazy driver nearly killed me on the way home. Today I’m going to watch my beloved college football team probably loose (yet again) after sweating at the gym and grocery shopping. In addition, I’m reading a very interesting book, The Plant Paradox, which is about the hidden dangers in healthy foods (most of the stuff I eat) that cause disease and weight gain. Yikes!
Next week looks much better with several fun, playful things planned. Thank goodness! Do you ever get in that place where you feel yourself aging by the minute? Perhaps it’s because you have stopped playing.
Affirmation: I will have fun and play.
Coaching questions: What do you do for fun? How does it rejuvenate you? What will you do for fun today?