Why you should embrace becoming an elder
Nobody wants to get old. Most of us would prefer to avoid the ageing process if we could. But this is impossible; our bodies will age whether we want them to or not. That doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to stay strong and healthy as much as possible, but that ageing is inevitable.
The purpose of the second half of life
The psychologist Carl Jung believed that the second half of life is for knowing and becoming your true self.
It isn’t easy to pinpoint an exact age for when the second half of life begins. But I would say it is sometime in our late 40s. Nobody knows how long they have to live, but this is when most of us will begin to feel things have changed. The catalyst could be the death of a loved one, an illness or a traumatic event, or it could be as simple as realising that your priorities have changed. You begin questioning your values and what you want for the rest of your life. Past focuses, such as career or family, may take a back step as your needs change and you focus on what you want rather than the needs of others.
Part of this process involves coming to terms with your mortality. It is scary – but you can’t ignore it or pretend it isn’t happening.
Ageing in the 21st Century
This new century has seen changes in the way we age. We are healthier and wealthier and have more time to spend after retirement than other generations. But this doesn’t necessarily make it easier. There is no map or guideline for how to age. Even so, expectations of what you should do or be at a certain age can be challenging for those who refuse to adhere to tired stereotypes.
Many of us are in age denial, which is perfectly understandable. The fear of physical changes in our bodies and the loss of status perceived to come with old age are not appealing. All the negative stereotypes of ageing do not help either. Who wants to be seen as old?
When we deny our age, we hinder our personal growth.
Dealing with Life’s Transitions
As we get older, illness and the effects of ageing on the body can be difficult to come to terms with.
Some people deal with this by attempting to relive their youth. Hence the midlife crisis cliche of a middle-aged man riding off into the sunset in a sports car with someone half his age!
Tempting as it may be to do this, it will only provide short-term relief and put off the inevitable in the long run. If you want to enjoy a fulfilling, happy life in the coming years, you should not resist this transition, however tricky it appears. You have to deal with it sometime whether you want to or not. Far better to do this sooner than later.
In our lifetime, we will play many different roles. It is only natural that these roles will change again as we age. Why not embrace this and enjoy the transition into elderhood?
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How to Embrace Becoming an Elder
Once you reach midlife, you have already successfully navigated several identity crises. These may include puberty, leaving school and home, entering the world of work, and having a family. All these have required that you take on new responsibilities and roles. Therefore, you already know how to manage this.
Becoming an elder is slightly different. It involves inner or soul work rather than focusing on the external world. To do this, you must look inside yourself and confront your failures. Focusing on regrets and disappointment can be challenging, but doing so can be extremely rewarding.
Here are some suggestions to help you.
Let go of regret. I sometimes think about a bad relationship or how miserable I was at work. I then start wondering how things could have been if only… When I do this, instead of wishing things would have been different, I try to look at how it shaped me and made me the person I am. If you find yourself doing this, remember that actions and experiences make us who we are.
Instead of resisting difficult emotions, allow yourself to feel them. If you want to cry, then do so. Negative emotions are part of life. Sadness, fear, hopelessness and depression exist. Pretending everything is ok will not help in the long run. Suppressing negative emotions comes at a cost. Allow yourself to feel the emotion, grieve and then move on.
Be proactive in creating the future you want. It is no good regretting your poor lifestyle choices when you were young. If you have stopped smoking, it is pointless worrying about lung cancer. If you haven’t, then stop now. Even if you haven’t exercised much and eat too many chips – it is never too late to start living a healthier lifestyle. Take action now to create a better future for yourself.
Embrace each life stage as a transition to something new instead of seeing it as an end. Every stage of life has its advantages and disadvantages. Concentrate on the good things instead of the bad. Embrace change – it will happen anyway. If you are struggling, remember how you coped with the last transition.
Make connections with others. Friends are important throughout your life. Making friends when you are younger may seem more straightforward, but you might be surprised to find out how many people want to meet new people. If you find someone interesting, ask them if they would like to meet for coffee sometime.
Learn new things. There is no limit to learning. It shouldn’t stop when you leave school or college. Nor does it need to be anything significant; keeping up with current affairs is as important as learning to throw pots. What is important is that you keep your brain stimulated.
Getting older can be challenging. But viewing it as a transition rather than a burden makes it easier to adapt. You don’t have to find religion to be a spiritual person. Spirituality is about feeling contented and fulfilled. This could include finding joy in a flower, the smile of a loved one, and enjoying the gift of every breath.