Aging gracefully must be challenging, frustrating and wonderful. I don’t think about it often, but when I do, I think I am looking forward to the back end of my life. I have not yet felt the mid-life anxiety or the “crisis”. I don’t dread my birthday as each year passes. I think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to grow a year older.
I recently spent some time with some older family friends, and it surprised me a little. To see these people that I remember from childhood as being strong, healthy and energetic and have now aged into varying states … it makes me sad a little, but not drastically. They are enjoying retirement, travelling, grandchildren, leisure time, and new interests. It is a surprise to see how the years have changed them, but a few have evolved into better versions of themselves. To see some who are far more calm and relaxed because of leaving stressful work situations, to see some who have taken every effort to alter their diet and lifestyle to prolong their life, to see some who have turned into far better grandparents than ever as parents.
I think that the idea of graceful aging is far-fetched and ridiculous, as our bodies will not allow us grace when our vision suddenly fails and we have to rely on our memory of the layout of our house until (hopefully) vision can be restored by surgery or treatments. I don’t believe dementia or Alzheimer’s is graceful when it robs us of our comprehension or memories or logical functions. I don’t believe it is graceful to watch a human body break down, part by part, until it just stubbornly refuses to co-operate with the motor skills portion of the brain.
In saying that, I do believe that lives can be lived gracefully. Forgiving people even if you don’t want to, just to be able to spend time with them. Swallowing your pride to do things that need to be done to keep life moving on day by day. Accepting other’s faults so that you can see the good in them, over and over again. This is graceful to me. Being the bigger person, even when you don’t want to be, just to make life a little easier, because the harder parts will come eventually, no need to rush them along.
I hope that when I am older I have everything I see in those around me. I hope that my children have little kids of their own and that I can spend time with them, playing and teaching and visiting and spoiling. I hope that my retirement will not be a boring one, but filled with activities and volunteering. I hope that my mind stays intact enough for me to be able to make decisions for myself.
I will love stopping in to people’s homes and being the oldest there, and getting served dessert first. I will love to be able to stop driving and have my children or grandchildren chauffeur me for safety’s sake. I will love getting up ridiculously early in the morning (as all older people seem to) because it will mean that I will be the first person that day to see the sun rise and hopefully make it to each following sunset.
I will love telling the same stories over and over and watching the younger people shake their heads and try to pretend interest. I will love travelling for no reason, hopefully in an RV and stopping at every little touristy shop to browse through their treasures. I will love telling my children and grandchildren how to live their lives, raise their babies and make the right decisions. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I will be graceful and sit back and watch them learn their own lessons.