This morning a friend called me to share the story of something she experienced. She was in a local pharmacy waiting to pick up a prescription when she remembered she wanted to get a pair of magnifying glasses because she was having difficulty reading the tiny print on the side of medicine bottles. She asked a store worker where she could find the glasses and the woman responded, “Go down aisle 5, they are located next to the canes.”
As my friend proceeded down the aisle, she found the canes and magnifying glasses, along with an array of other products targeted for people of a particular age. She purchased the glasses and on her way home, the humor of the situation hit her - that she was now shopping in that part of the store - and so she immediately called me. She shared the story, and we laughed and joked about our gray hair, worsening eyesight, wrinkles, and new aches and pains. In reality, we both have a long way to go on our life journey, but the story of the magnifying glasses did make us think about growing old.
When we think about aging, our ideas may be somewhat outdated. We expect those getting older to slow down and move aside for the next generation. But, that doesn’t have to be the case.
When I turned 50, I began living life on my own terms. With another 35 or maybe 40 years ahead of me, I decided that societal ideas of what it means to be old - especially for women – will not apply to what I want from the next chapter of my life.
Each one of us has the opportunity to craft our second act into what we want it to be, rather than what anybody else tells us it must be. Here are a few tips to help us re-fire instead of retire:
Put yourself first. Aging offers the luxury of no longer having to juggle a marriage, kids, a career, family, or community commitments. You can think about what you'd like the rest of your journey to look like. Don't assume you can't do something. Make a life that you truly want to live.
Throw convention to the winds. One of the great things about getting older is that you can thumb your nose at convention with fewer consequences than when you were younger. You can throw a party and invite who you want, or you can say what you believe with less worry about repercussions. Aging offers a freedom not previously felt.
Keep good company. Spend time with people of all ages and from various backgrounds. Learn about new cultures. Research shows that staying social has numerous mental and physical health benefits. Activities such as volunteering, hobbies, travel, and even social media are all ways you can remain socially active and connected.
Be a novice. Immerse yourself in learning new things. Break the routine and make a commitment to learn something new on a regular basis. This keeps your brain sharp while providing a sense of accomplishment and excitement.
We are bombarded with messages that teach us to fear aging. While many of us lament about getting older, it is important to remember Mark Twain’s words: “Do not complain about growing old. It is a privilege denied to many.” Make the most of your time because life is a gift that should be treasured. Like a fine wine, we get better with age!