Thinking Out Loud: Growing Old, Not Grumpy!
Let’s face it, growing old is not as bad as people seem to think it is—or is it? Sure, we seem to find everyday tasks a bit more challenging than we used to, and the prices on the menu are more difficult to squeeze into our budget now that our incomes may have changed. Our skin develops laugh lines (wrinkles), and those dreadful liver spots, oh my! Hair growing in places we don’t want it to grow and thinning in places we wish were still thick and full of luster. It can be disheartening.
When the ol’ ticker gets tired and joints give way, we may lose some functionality, and the pounds may begin to pile on. As if that isn’t enough, our minds can get sluggish, and the search for words to express ourselves takes longer. For many, the changes in a dis-functioning body, concerning finances, and mental struggles are alarming,and often we can become depressed with age. This natural grief for our youth also seems to compound when we have lost loved ones. Then we find ourselves seeing and responding to life the way our parents and other elders did. (Now it makes perfect sense!) But are misery and grumpiness really our only options?
I turned seventy-six last June, and to celebrate this wonderful milestone, I’d like to examine how a few simple steps can help us feel better about the aging process and take the necessary steps to grow old gracefully.
We cannot control all of the aspects of aging, but that does not mean that we cannot control ANY of them. We just need to discover which aspects to accept as our new normal and which ones to focus on for improvement. For myself, I’ve accepted that I can no longer jog or volunteer in the time frame I was accustomed to. I can, however, walk, jog and ride a bicycle, so I do so with my wife. We have such a grand time visiting and praying as we stroll along the river or explore a new part of town! Likewise, I can continue most of my volunteering, but I spread my commitments out so there is more time to rest in between. Thus, I focus on what I CAN do, not what I can’t.
It is important to realize that continuing to care for ourselves can ease the physical changes in our bodies, and we can also embrace these changes by reframing them. Imagine, instead, that these changes are signs that a caterpillar is entering the cocoon and awaiting the process of becoming a butterfly in the new body heaven brings. That understanding says, “People have difficult days, extend patience and love.” It also means extending those to ourselves. It also tells us, “I’ve been here before. No need to fear; God is already here and ahead of me!” That perspective carries with it honor, dignity, hope, and joy, rather than shame and embarrassment and frustration. That, my friends, can be even more beautiful than a “perfect,” young body.
Creating a routine is important for all of us to be sure we achieve the goals that we have. Being intentional and talking about it with others to create a health-building community can be helpful as well. Did you know that Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) once stated, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”? No one would argue that we are smart when we look for ways to live responsibly (fresh air, sunshine, veggies, fruit, purified water, nuts, seeds, vitamins, fresh juices, digestive enzymes, probiotics, meaningful relationships – both human and spiritual – and satisfying contributions to society). Self-care must remain an important part in honoring the temple of our bodies, and it’s aging, as a gift to us from God.
For me, this also means my relationships are the most important area to focus on, beginning with God, and then my family, friends, and ministry opportunities. Along with a devotional time for study and prayer every day, and a commitment to see life through my spiritually alive lens, I make attendance at worship and study opportunities a priority. Likewise, families don’t just strengthen themselves. Intentional family living is a must in this communication age when the pace of life just keeps getting faster and increasingly unhealthy. We seniors are the roots to the family tree and must remain a source of strength and stability to the next generations. And our friends, dear, dear friends—there’s a song my wife used to sing in Girl Scouts long ago. It goes like this, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” One by one, our friends will go on to heaven, so the bit of advice in this song will become more and more important. We were not created to be an island, but rather we are connected to others. We must make every effort to stay that way.
Aging is a part of the human life cycle. Although it can be difficult not to be grumpy when we don’t feel good, feel embarrassed, or lonely, there are things we can do to minimize the pain and maximize the gain so we age gracefully and are an asset to our families and society until our last breath. Let’s do them.
SUGGESTED PRAYER: Dear Elohim (our Creator), thank you for your good plan for us. Thank you for each human’s similarities and unique designs. Please guide us into our own customized plan for aging gracefully and fulfilling our purpose until our last breath. In Jesus’ name we ask this, amen.