In the mornings, walking the trails of this mountainous terrain, from time-to-time Joey would tell me, “you know buddy, getting older ain’t for sissies.” And, that was it. No explanation of what was hurting or of what was most likely, the many aches and pains throughout his 70+ year old body. Just a simply stated, well proven fact. At the time, I thought this comment was pretty funny, but as I’ve reflected on that season of life, I realize it was a privilege to hear those words, knowing that they will stand the test of time. I realize, that sometimes off-handed, seemingly frivolous comments, can hold a lot of wisdom and stick with us forever, whether they be good, bad or a bit of both at the same time.
Getting older brings an array of challenges. Some call this season of life the “golden years,” while others call it, “the second half of life.” Rest assured there will be something else next year we’re supposed to call it to conform to political correctness. While there are many names for this stage of life, whatever helps someone overcome the challenges is fine by me, because there is no denying how difficult this stage of life is for many.
Aging has many undeniable physical and psychological challenges, as well as the sometimes not so noticeable spiritual ones. All of these challenges can bring us to a point where we find ourselves searching for a new identity or trying to hold on to one we are having difficulty keeping up with. At some point, a loss of independence can start to sink into our minds, which is often further reinforced by cultural and environmental challenges, greatly impacting our aging process. To better prepare, deal and conquer these challenges, it is good to identify what they are. So, here are 6 major challenges of aging that we will all face, with a few suggestions that might help with the process.
Daily activities and the adventurous walk through the park may start to bring physical stress to to our bodies and minds that we didn’t feel in our 40s and 50s. Skipping all the medical jargon, our bodies just seem to be able to handle what they used to, with more aches and pains flaring-up overtime. Accepting the fact that some assistance is needed for this process might be difficult but asking for help, is something we shouldn’t shy away from. This sense of loss and independence requires the acceptance that we need help of others to assist us with our physical decline. Letting others take care of us, physically and spiritually is something many of us must adjust to as we age.
Research and common sense tells us that so much of our physical nature affects our mental health. When aspects of our body start to decline, our mental state is affected. Aging demands much from us and making sure we continue to participate and interact with our environment and the people around us is vital to meet the challenges of aging. Staying engaged with others and keeping mindfully active will activate our spiritual sense and presence, positively affecting minds and bodies, and everything around us. If you’re ever looking for something to get involved in be sure to check out our local events page, for stuff to do for seniors around town.
I’m not sure exactly what the biggest factor is for growing spiritually as we age, or for any stage in life, but one element that must be involved is that we all have more to reflect on as more time passes. As we get older, we often search for the meaning of things, in what we have been through and with what we are currently experiencing. Yes friends, even this process can be difficult and certainly isn’t for sissies.
This brings an attention and awareness that is heightened as we age to all our experiences. At least those we can remember, even though they may be intangible. “Impermanence requires us to build a spiritual relationship with change, transience, fragility, perishability, disappearance, absence, and loss (Alger, 2018).” An acceptance of this process, and thoughtfully working through it when the time is right, will help us engage and overcome many of the physical and mental challenges of aging.
When we speak of reconciliation, we often discuss our relationships with others, but this discussion can also be applied to finding peace with our own situations and circumstance. Accepting the second half of our life’s journey and being tolerant of the things we cannot change helps us better take notice of things we can. Whether this be navigating the cascading peaks and valleys of grief or finding new activities and social groups to get involved with, reconciliation helps us move passed obstacles, into exciting new terrains. Through these challenges we can find a new sense of purpose, even in the midst of past or present suffering.
But, “getting older ain’t for sissies,” now is it? Especially in an evolving culture that seems to be leaving an aging population behind. Ageism is an often ignored prejudice when thrown into the discussion of disadvantaged groups, but it is a reality for millions of people in our country. Not only is ageism a common reality for many, but it seems to be a reality accepted by the general public and younger generations. Taking care of elders requires patience, time and persistence, qualities that need to be reinforced in our society, because at some point in everyone’s life, getting older will require all three.
A caring and thoughtful society will uphold an aging population with admiration and a deep respect for someone else’s journey and wellbeing. This includes acknowledging that there is still plenty of the journey left for our elders, especially since we are living much longer than just a generation ago. Individuals that makeup our society must embrace the stewardship of caretaking for those in need. After all, that’s what so many of the aging population desires to do for those coming after them. Elders often just want to take care of those who are taking care of them.
When older generations think of legacy, they often contemplate how others will feel and what they will think of when they are remembered. For many of us, this leads to considering our options for taking care of others, even after we’re gone. Helping others with the challenges they will also face in their own lives, like getting older. This process often means passing along so much more than our possessions. It means passing along our values to those whose lives we’ve impacted and whose lives have impacted ours.
Being able to recall those who have helped us in our life and whom we have been blessed to spend time with is a powerful testimony we can share with those around us. As we age, we often think more and more about who we can lift up in our families and community. This is one of the most powerful abilities elder generations have to share with others. This is a quality that is often not found in other aspects or demographics in our society. The legacy of bringing up the next generation is innate. It is something we should all strive to do in whatever way we can.
So what about Joey and his legacy? Well, I can tell you Joey was definitely no Sissie. Being 70 years old and walking the back country of his vast acreage took a lot of strength, but it also took its toll. During the time we were together, he was often considering what type of legacy he was going to leave to his own, “next generation.” Joey had lost his wife, but still had two wonderful children. Unfortunately, contrary to what he had hoped for, his children didn’t want to stay on the farm that had been in his family for over 100 years. His son had moved to New York to become a stock broker and his daughter to the city working as a pharmacist. Everyone had done well, but the legacy he had planned on leaving all his life wasn’t going to mean what he had so longed and hoped it would. This challenge brought Joey to a reconciliation with his own vision and he realized it wasn’t very well aligned with the reality of his environment. Recognizing this, Joey adjusted and made a different plan for his future, asking for a lot of help from those around him.
As remembered from my experiences in South Africa: Jesse Brown
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