In preparing for retirement, for aging, we put money away like Smaug The Dragon who knows his coin. We imagine we will gain freedom, retain vitality, interest, and motivation, perhaps enjoy the affection of those we served through life. But do we prepare for what is really coming?
I’ve been asked, how do we age well? And guess who asked. An aged man. I tugged on my chin a little to hide my discomfiture. After all, I would like to sit at his table and listen in on his story of doing what he had inevitably done, grown old. I’d like to hear what he is pleased with. And what he regrets. I’d like to hold up the memories, like picture slides to the light, and see if I recognize anything. Maybe something I might relate to. Something I might more deliberately emulate. I might feel more secure, knowing what he has done before me. Maybe I’d think I am safe.
Remember that song,
A foolish man built his house upon the sand, A foolish man built his house upon the sand, A foolish man built his house upon the sand and the rains came a tumbling down. The rains came down and the floods came up, The rains came down and the floods came up, The rains came down and the floods came up and the house upon the sand went splat!
(The hand motions make the song.)
But why ask me about aging? Do I look so old already? What the!? Fine then. I’d like to say, grow old continent and stock full of Botox. Nah. That wasn’t it. (Mind wandering already you see.)
Or maybe, we who are aging wonder quietly if this person, or that might have a trick of doing it better. This person wants to hold up my picture slides to the light and gather security to them. That person wants to do more than hoard coin, and another doubts the vitality and wonders if she’d know what to do with it if it were waiting there for her after all in the end any way. “How do we age well?”
Start with Me.
Me, where there is freedom to choose, the chance of change, the place where cause begins. (The 3 C’s done our way at Friend to Yourself :).)
As a psychiatrist, it’s easy for me to think first of the biology of aging of course – brain health over time and to recall that the brain is connected to rest of the body. I could tell this aged man that he’ll be wanting to get oxygen to his brain at night and use his cpap regularly. I could speak of motility and exercise, of caloric intake and sleep hygiene. We might spend some time on medical care for psychiatric illnesses common in again, depression, dementia, anxiety, and so forth. We might speak of the inevitable process of losing friends and family, aging past a child or losing pets. But as many so often remind me, psychiatrist’s only have the truth that their perceptions allow. 😉
A dear Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist told me the other day that she has become more convinced than ever that the processes of coming into the world and that of leaving the world are the same. Having delivered countless souls into life, she has been marked, as if the luminescence of so many branded her. She carries the knowledge of their entry and of those who have already died.
I remember my niece who died at 9 years and 28 days. Not so old. Not so aged. Some how we think of death when we think of aging, not when we think of nine-year-olds. However my niece did age well.
I suppose aging is like any system, as strong as its weakest member. The wonder is that if we believe in aging, we believe our lives run on a line, on Time, which is after all, a human construct, a philosophy and based on Magic. Aging well as implied by my OB-gyn colleague, is looking at it from both ends, looking at what is in between, and looking at what is outside of birth and death. Aging well includes exploring the essence of Me, what bit of Magic came before Time and before zero and numbers and philosophy turned into math.
How do we age well? Does aging imply disease? Aging is linear. They’re different but definitely paired… Help me on this?
To say that this post resonated with me is an understatement! It hit me hard. I’m 52 years old and aging well is foremost on my mind. I don’t have the answer, but I am in pursuit of it. I sense that it is all about the relationships we have (or don’t have). For me, aging well has much to do with drawing closer to God and finding peace in a chaotic world. I’ve tried, but I can’t do this without a Higher Power. When I try on my own, I’m exhausted and anxious and aging poorly. I’m Smaug The Dragon who knows his coin. My innermost being desires the affection of those I have served through life, but this too is outside of my control. I keep learning, over and over, that to lose is to gain. I’m wondering then, is aging well all about allowing loss (giving up control) to develop our souls for gain? But if gain is our goal, are we really giving up control and therefore, aging well? I look forward to seeing what other people have to say and I will keep learning.
thoughtful response. Thank u Beth. Seeing and experiencing loss is potentially instructive for all of us. Good can come out of bad. I see the relationship btw this u r trying to clarify. Not linear, I agree too. Sheez.
Big hugs. Can’t wait to hear how your thoughts progress. Please cont to tell.
I argue with Dr Bazzi, my cardiologist. I do have CAD(coronary artery disease) but why does he insist it is a disease and not merely an aspect of aging? You ask the question “is aging a disease?” I suppose it’s good that it is on the disease list so my medicare advantage insurance plan pays all his bills. At 64 aren’t I supposed to have had arteriole sclerosis the last 15 years? Isn’t my aortic network supposed to continue to calcify at a mild rate? For Keeerist’s sakes it’s just hardening of the arteries not the plague.
I really am not intimidate by all this white hair now even though they are not just on my head. I earned every one ov’em.
Yes Carl. I like u in white.
Is aging a disease? I’m glad that resonated. Company in thought is terribly wonderful.
As unbuddah as it sounds though, I hate that u have CAD.
Keep on, friend.
I make sure I excercise daily, either a long walk or a class of somekind, Pilates. Sometimes I’m just tired when I wake up, after showering and laundry. Tired too easily. Aging ain’t for sissies. 🙂
Awesome Clar! Tap that courage!
Having jsut turned 73 and spending the last two weeks in bed with something like pneumonia, I’ve thought a lot about aging well. Who at 73 goes to the doctor running a fever and wheezing enough not to be able to easily catch a breath and still has blood pressure (unmedicated) of 128/70? I may feel awful at the moment but I have to respond to this post because I need to say, one more time but not the last, to the question of aging, “Read William Wordsworth’s Ode to Intimations of Immortality”. Pray that the beauty of God’s world that you saw as a child survives, though your life, however many years it is, so that aging, with all of its infirmities, will allow you to die re-remembering and looking forward to the beauty of heaven from whence you came with all that God, in God’s glory, can and does give us during whatever time we have on earth. Spring is more beautiful the older I get. Nature is more breath-taking. And, if sadness is a part of aging for me, it is the sadness of being so rushed through life that I didn’t stop enough to smell the flowers.
awesome experience to build on. so much of life is, “see it to believe it,” and such hope can’t be that different. hope u feel better soon and keep on lady courage.
Aging and Death are not the same. Since we are currently confined to Space and Time, we have age. We can not escape it. As for Death? We have determined it it be an end point. Then we use death as a point of referance to contiune marking time. We may not like to age but there is only one other current option.
What has aged better? A pair of fadded old blue jeans with holes in them and worn, or a Master work of art like The Mona Lisa?
Thank u! I’m grateful to put our hands on this concept w u. It isn’t easy for me. I really resonate w the paradigm that we don’t know all paradigms :). Yes. !