When I talk with people who are in or entering their third chapter, I ask what is the best part about growing older and what scares them. The main theme seems to be increased independence and losing that independence.
The biggest fear tends to be decreased mental and physical health, especially a sudden downturn. People generally fear becoming a burden to their family. As you get older, it can be more difficult to maintain your health. You need to be much more intentional about it than you did when you were young. Having to work harder at physical and mental exercise can be discouraging. It is worth it though to be able to be more engaged in your everyday life.
It is tough to get up early and get out there for a run. In the summer in Scottsdale, I try to get outside before six am so I am done exercising before it hits ninety degrees. In the winter, I have to figure out where to fit my run or walk in during my day. I don’t like exercising in forty degrees. (Yes, I realize I am a cold wimp who could no longer survive living in Chicago.) However, I want to be able hike up a mountain or walk through a city I am visiting. I want to be able to climb the 551 steps up to the cupola of St. Peter’s in Rome again. The daily grind is worth staying in good enough shape to do all the things I still want to do in life. Of course, staying mentally fit also takes regular work. My previous blogs have addressed this. What do you fear about growing old? What are you doing to try to prevent what you fear?
The benefits of growing old seem to outweigh the fears for most people. There tends to be more financial security and a sense of accomplishment in their work. Many people have reached a point where they can cut back on their work or at least don’t have to put in that extra work of climbing the ladder. With children gone, or at least more independent, there is more time for yourself and your significant other. This is a good time to really think about how you want to spend your time. Do you want to work less, do different work, volunteer for a special cause, travel or spend more time on crafts or sports? Growing older can mean more flexibility in your life. Are you being intentional with this opportunity?
Another realization that comes with getting older is that we have survived. Everyone faces multiple challenges throughout life. We realize that we made it through those and this gives us confidence to face what is still to come. We know that we have made mistakes but we also know that life is short and we can’t live in regret. There is also the cliché about older people that we don’t care what other people think of us anymore. It may not be completely true but we certainly care much less. This can be a huge relief from stress. It can also be a freedom to try new things and spend our time doing what we really want to do rather than what we think we should be doing.
The wisdom and confidence we have gained through the years can help us to tackle the fears that have developed. How can you tap into your hard-earned strength to bring out your inner sage rather than your saboteurs?