Aging Now

Recent years gave me many opportunities to reflect on what it means to live well and what it means to age well. We often assume that the trick to aging “well” is to remain healthy, to avoid suffering from aches, pains, and infirmities.

We are wrong. The price of living long IS aches, pains, and infirmities.

Aging “well”, it turns out, is becoming the kind of person who can accept graciously and accommodate intelligently the trials of aging. Aging “well” is about who we are as a person, not simply what we are as a body.

This means that the challenges of aging well are not physical, they are spiritual. Acceptance and accommodation — which are the most valuable tools for aging — strike at the core of how we understand who we are. That is, perhaps, the most spiritual question we can ask ourselves.

How do we maintain our dignity while suffering physical indignities?

How do we maintain our humor in the face of pain?

How do we accept life graciously when life is being ungracious to us?

How do we incorporate the unexpected and the loss of control it represents without bitterness and rage?

How do we ask for, and accept help, when it flies in the face of our understanding of ourselves as independent capable people?

How do we find meaning and value in our lives when we are not “producing” in the way we and our society normally appreciates?

How do we care for and love a body we feel has betrayed us?

These are the true challenges of aging. The good and bad news is that we don’t start preparing for these challenges when they arrive. We need to already be the kind of person who can face these things before they arrive.

We need to be preparing for the challenges of aging…in our 20s. And 30s. And 40s. And 50s. And 60s. That’s the good news – we can start right now and be more likely to be ready when the tough part of aging arrives.

Take a look at that list again. They are all challenges, in fact, that we face throughout our lives. How we respond to them now is how we will respond to them when we are “aged” as well.

Aging merely gives proof to the lives we’ve led. What will your older years tell the world about the life you have led? What can you do about that today?