Appreciating Aging

Appreciating Aging

Since turning 70, I’ve been thinking more about the benefits of aging. Even though many of us who are getting older have already felt some of the disadvantages or difficulties, there are also many good things to be found in this stage of our lives. I want to explore a few of these with you by sharing some of my own thoughts and experiences. Of course, you may not be at the stage in life where these things apply to you personally, but you may be interested for the sake of elderly family members or friends.

Just as with any of the other stages of life, aging will bring some challenges. Some of the things that we encounter may seem like major disruptions to our plans and desires for our lives, but if we take the time to see the potential those challenges unlock, we can actually turn the aging process into a very positive experience.

Though I admit there are times when the aches and pains and other drawbacks seem less than beneficial, I’m determined to see these years as an opportunity for growth. I want to continue to “run with perseverance the race marked out for [me], fixing [my] eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”1 Some people call having this positive mindset “aging gracefully,” “aging victoriously,” or “triumphant aging.”

Greater respect for time. Aging brings a more elevated sense of the importance of using time wisely. I have more motivation to set firm goals to accomplish, rather than putting them off. Leaving them until “some other time” seems much less secure now because “some other time” might not come. As the awareness of the priority of making wise use of time grows, it becomes a motivator that helps the distractions of this life to fade in importance.

Efficiency through single-mindedness. For me, the key point to remember is to focus on one thing at a time. At first, trying to do many things at once appears to help you get more done. However, when you add up all the details that are often missed in this way of operating, it may not actually be the most effective.

Depending more on others. Feeling less independent or that it’s harder to do some things that you used to do in the past can be frustrating. However, the upside is that needing more help from others brings humility and can also help to keep you in closer communion with Jesus and closer contact with others.

Challenges keep our brains active. I’m finding that the many new challenges in my life now are keeping my brain active—thinking, studying, developing new ideas, and finding workarounds to these new challenges, keeping me focused.

Attitudes for staying vibrant and flexible in spirit. Being young in spirit is not dependent on how many biological years you’ve lived. What you choose to believe about yourself is what will be reflected in your thoughts, words, and actions. Choose to treat each new day and whatever changes it may bring as an opportunity to stay young in heart and vibrant in spirit.

Ultimatums and lifestyle changes are blessings. Some of my friends have had ultimatums in the form of heart attacks that have forced them to slow down, analyze, and change their lifestyle. As a result of those changes, they’ve discovered a whole new lease on life, as well as a whole new perspective on what is important.

Of course, not all ultimatums are this drastic. But I’m thankful for the ultimatums that require me to make positive changes in my lifestyle, even if they may initially be uncomfortable, inconvenient, humbling, and sometimes disconcerting.

Health awareness. A part of valuing life more as I age is that I’m seeing the importance that God places on health. Even more than before, I tune in to what’s happening in my body. As I age, I’m more interested in researching health challenges, getting reliable counsel, and finding effective, natural remedies or solutions.

Building bonds with other seniors. We seniors have a lot in common, and it’s helpful to find a support group. Together we can help one another appreciate the many positives of aging. We can be a witness of how God keeps us and helps us cope, and even rise above the challenges and be positive in spite of any negatives.

More fulfillment with a slower pace. I have accepted that I have to go slower, because I have less energy and my body won’t go as fast or work as hard physically as it did in the past. But going slower enables me to enjoy the journey more and brings a sense of greater fulfillment.

Imparting valuable experience. Being able to pass on our experiences, the wisdom that this life has taught us, our testimonies, or our stories both to our peers and to younger generations is a priceless privilege.

I’ve found that many younger people will accept encouragement and counsel more easily from a grandparent figure than a peer or a parental figure. In your later years, you can be an even greater blessing to the younger generations, and perhaps even a confidant and/or mentor. (Of course, offering advice or sharing experiences with others shouldn’t be in the form of preaching or lecturing.)

Benefits of perpetual learning. Learning something new, even if I feel it’s a bit of a stretch, can be a lot of fun and provide a sense of achievement. One of my friends started teaching English as a second language, because she wanted to supplement her income, only to discover that she loved teaching, and it became a passion for her.

Sharing compassion and comfort. As you grow older, you generally become more compassionate towards others, since you can relate to many of their challenges, having experienced them yourself.

The gift of simplicity. Another benefit of growing older is recognizing the simpler blessings in life.

Opportunities for better life balance. As we age, we realize that we can balance our actions and effort with seeing life more as an experience to be lived than something to be endured or overcome. When circumstances require us to go slower, we can use those times to give to others through prayer and encouragement.

Filling the empty places. If you’re lonely, or you can’t keep up with the social circle that you used to have, you can turn the loss into an opportunity to reach out to others who may also be lonely. There’s no better way to fill the emptiness in our own life than by filling the empty places in another’s.

Benefiting from laughter. Some of the things I do sometimes are quite humorous, such as picking up something, intending to take it into the other room, but then getting there and wondering what happened to it. Then returning to the first room, only to realize that I had picked it up, gotten distracted by something else and put it back down in the same spot where it was. Or, have you ever been looking all around for your phone when it was in your hand? I have! I’ve even occasionally forgotten whether I had my glasses on or not.

Laughter is a great stress releaser. Laughter is also good for your health and boosts your immune system. A good hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to forty-five minutes afterwards.2

1. Hebrews 12:1–2 NIV
2. See “Laughter Is the Best Medicine.” See also “Stress Management.”

Maria Fontaine

Maria Fontaine

Maria Fontaine is the spiritual and administrative co-director (along with her husband, Peter Amsterdam) of the Family International, a Christian community of faith dedicated to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. She is the author of numerous articles on the Christian faith life. (Articles by Maria Fontaine used in Activated are adapted.)

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