January 28, 2017

What Gets Better As We Age?

Aging brings a new awareness of limitations. Physical and health-related issues are part of the reality of living. Just a few years ago, things we could do without much strain are more difficult. We must work harder to remain fit and energetic.

At the same time, several aspects actually improve. In meaningful ways, our life can become richer and easier as we turn each page of the calendar. LIfe's experiences help us in very important ways.

As we move through the last few days of the first month of a new year, let's look at some of the things that tend to get better as we age:


1. We are less concerned with comparing ourselves to others. By now, we know ourselves well enough to stop constantly comparing ourselves to others. We know there are people who are better looking than us, have more money or fame than we do, are taller, or thinner, more athletic or smarter and there is nothing we can do to change those differences. Importantly, we care less about any of that as measures of our worth or satisfaction.


2. We are more confident when we make decisions. Usually, there is less second-guessing as we age. We understand the past can't be changed and the future is largely out of our control. We are better at assessing the pros and cons of a situation based on a lifetime of experience. 


3. Relationships with others are often better. Because of point #1, our relationships often improve as we age. We tend to be more attuned to the needs of others. We appreciate true friendship as an important gift. We eliminate superficial relationships that take our time but return little of value. We have learned from our relational mistakes and find ourselves more open with partners.


4. The religious aspects of life can become more important. Spirituality, participation in organized religion, or a self-directed connection with a greater power tend to increase as we age. Perhaps it is a growing sense of our own mortality. Maybe because we have more time to think and contemplate, we search for something that brings meaning to our existence. For some that means a return to church or synagogue. For others, it may mean moving away from organized religion to an individual quest.

5. Generosity and sharing tend to increase. Giving back becomes more important as we age. As a way to connect with others, volunteerism rises with age. We understand our ability to help those who are less fortunate is more important than continual self-betterment. Charity donations tend to increase. 




We are aware of the stereotypical grumpy old man (or woman) who turns inward, rejects others, complains about everything, and perfects the art of being stingy with resources and time. The good news is this response to aging is atypical. We are much more likely to adopt some or all of the five points made above. When we do, a satisfying retirement (or re-visioning) becomes a reality.




21 comments:

  1. I find my decision-making skills, particularly in financial matters, oftentimes has improved. That might be as much due to additional time or fewer conflicts, but I still have noticed a difference. This seems to run counter to what the "experts" say, but I believe it.

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    1. That fits with #2. We are more confident as experience gives us the ability to judge something more accurately. I would agree that my abilities in the financial world have also improved. I am much less likely to simply take my advisor's word for something without a little due diligence!

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  2. 1. I have time. Time to do things, time to sit and reflect.
    2. I worry so much less. Yes, the marriage held up. Yes, the kids turned out fine, Yes, we were able to retire.
    3. I'm good enough,fine just the way I am.
    It's a beautiful world and I appreciate being part of it every day.

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    1. A nice list of things that have gotten better. Thanks, Florence.

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  3. I like Florence's reply! Yep, I agree!

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  4. What doesn't get better?! Hmm, well, okay, my skin tone isn't better, but I don't care as much, so that's better! I can't think of any age I would go back to.

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    1. I have asked myself several times if is there an age I would go back to if I could. While my early 20's were fun as a radio DJ, that was no way to live long term. So, no, I am content with 67.

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  5. I have less fear of missing out, some of which might be connected to "been there, bought the t-shirt" but it's also connected to a contentment with the now and being present in the moment, like revelling in the winter sunrises and sunsets.

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    1. "Contentment with the now" is also the central point of Galen's comment above. Being more aware of the moment is a positive aspect of aging. Thanks for adding that to the list, Mona.

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  6. Some of the "return to bible study" may be true. Many to return to one's roots and a belief system after a lifetime away. Many went thru " pediatric religiosity," where we drop our kids off at church and pick them up later. Now want a spiritual experience.
    I also believe that " many are preparing for their finals."

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    1. "Many are preparing for their finals" is a great way of referring to our increased sense of our own mortality. Unlike school, it isn't something we can cram for. Rather, I believe it takes faith and trust in something we can't see or touch.

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  7. Excellent list. I've found another positive to be a decreasing lack of fear of any consequences when speaking out against injustice and racism or other evils whenever we encounter them. Both items 1 and 2 seem related.

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    1. Timely comment about feeling more freedom to speak out against injustices.

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  8. Just discovered your blog. I have enjoyed what I have read so far!

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  9. When I was maybe 20, a great aunt in her 80s told me she wished she were 40 again. I thought, "Forty? Who wants to be FORTY?!" Now I understand.
    Seriously, your list is spot on. There are days of nostalgia, of the kids being kids again, yet the days ahead promise so much. And, if the Lord calls me, that is only gain for me.
    Jeff in OK

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    1. During my 40's I was on the road all the time and stressed to the max. I would have zero interest in going back to that time of my life.

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  10. Agree with all your points. And I would say I am much more likely to stand my ground without getting angry, which is a lifelong journey for me (and a lot of other women I know). Boundaries are easier to keep when I can just say no and mean it, no matter how many times someone asks the same thing.

    And I could not agree more about being grateful for where I am and not wanting to go back to any particular age. I worked hard and traveled a lot (as you did) and I see our kids in that phase and don't miss it for a moment. The longer I'm retired, the more gratitude I have for this phase of life.
    --Hope

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    1. Thanks, Hope. I have grown during each stage of my life and regret very little of it. But, I have no interest in repeating any of it. Where I am now is very satisfying.

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  11. In the social realm, most people experience a number of benefits as they age: the opportunity to cease paid work, less worry about financial status, less stress, and more freedom to use their time as they wish. Those older adults who are still doing paid work also generally experience a number of benefits. As they are often at the pinnacle of their careers, they are likely to be in their peak earning years and to have more autonomy, respect, and opportunity to provide leadership in their workplace.

    Jude

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    1. Older workers who maintain a satisfying work life can be as you describe. Too often the experience and mentoring that an older worker can provide are overlooked benefits to everyone.

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