I was with a close friend recently who reflected on the aging journey of two of her university colleagues. One she described as becoming bitter and intransigent – unwilling to do anything that he didn’t want to do and continuing to try to build up his self-importance by lying about his accomplishments.
Another refuses to retire but is unable to drive himself to work because of mental confusion. His wife has to drive him to work and pick him up. My friend ended her reflections by saying, “I hope that I age with grace.”
It is hard to get older. Our bodies decline and sometimes our minds do too. For some, thinking of retiring is like looking into a dark abyss of meaninglessness. So, rather than risk change and make the identity shift they need to do to let go of who they have always thought themselves to be, some people keep doing what they’ve always done regardless of whether or not they still have the vitality or dedication to do it well.
Seeking to age with grace is an alternative to aging with bitterness, recalcitrance, and confusion. It is an act of choosing to age consciously by seeking inner resources, trusting that at the deepest level you do not have to be afraid of the natural processes of aging. It is choosing to actively step into this time of your life and its invitations for growth as well as loss. Aging with grace is trusting that you have the tools to age well.
Most people who choose to age consciously say that this is the best time of their lives because they have the time and freedom to do what they’ve always wanted to do and to become who they’ve dreamed of becoming. It is a time for gaining increased self-knowledge, confidence, and capacity to be true to ourselves.
Practice mercy and atonement
Attend to the heart
Engage in compassionate service
Be open to guidance and wisdom
Letting be and letting go
Practice grateful seeing
In her book, “Living in Gratitude,” Angeles Arrien writes of several spiritual practices that can help us to age well.
These and other possibilities for conscious living and aging provide a rich array for us to choose from as we live fully into the later years of our lives.
May this time of your life be one of richness, full of the abundant gifts that aging can bring.
May you continue to live life with vibrancy and curiosity, as well as grace.