I recently posted a story on my film Facebook page, The Beauty of Aging, about “skateboarding mama” who is 91 and roller blades along the ocean front in Santa Monica. Like many others, I am impressed with her vitality and spunk. It’s inspiring to hear stories about people in their older years staying active and involved. All the women in my documentary project were examples of this kind of engaged living,
But what if you can’t roller blade, work out with heavy weights, or dance to the wee hours of the morning? What if you have health issues and need to live a quieter life? What if the many examples of inspiring older people feel like pressure to be like them when you can’t?
What I learned from the women in my documentary project and the research about aging is that attitude is a key factor. As Connie Goldman, author and researcher says, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you deal with it.” If physical limitations occur, how do you incorporate them into your life and enjoy what you can?
Shirley Windward, one of the co-stars of my documentary short, “Greedy for Life,” is a prime example of a woman who had a good attitude. She used her writing of poetry to help her deal with some of the challenges in an assisted living center after she had a stroke. Instead of complaining, she wrote and used her humor to adjust.
I know for sure that I will not be roller blading in my 90’s. I”m not doing it now while 70. I do love watching my grandsons in their rollerblading class at the park but don’t see that in my future.
What calls me is remaining active in my way by doing free form dancing, light weights and walking, engaging my mind and my creativity with new ideas and explorations and staying connected with friends and family. Throw in some travel and I’m good to go.
What about you? What calls you? Are you accepting of where you are now? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’m turning 70 a few days after the New Year, 2015. That sounds like a big number and yet I cannot put an age to what I see in the mirror or how I feel. When my energy is down, I feel the same stagnation as when I was a younger woman. The converse is true as well. Feeling good, doing my free form dance to music is ageless to me.
There is a reality, however, that I’m closer to death than to birth. This gives me pause to reflect on many things:
What do I really believe about life and death?
Do I believe in reincarnation? I don’t disbelieve it but am not totally convinced.
If my spirit lives on without my body, which I believe it does, what does that really mean?
These questions and more direct my thoughts, my mediation, my reading and conversations with some people who share such explorations.
I am also aware of the many gifts of my life. Some came in beautiful packaging while others showed up in broken boxes that took time to realize their value. Loving family, good friends, careers in psychotherapy and documentary film and lots of travel are some of the blessings in my life.
I’ve always been an introvert but notice that quiet time is even more important to me now. I’ve begun to explore writing with no particular goal other than to express myself. Is there a memoir in my future? Perhaps.
Please feel free to share your experience with your right of passage into your 7th decade or with any birthday that feels significant to you. I would love to hear your stories.
“It’s hard to tell what is age decline and what is disease… I’ve had a very challenging life with disease after disease after disease. I shouldn’t be here, but I have a tremendous will to live; a joie de vivre alternating with debility.” Joni Mitchell at age 70
This quote by Joni Mitchell raises the question: what’s aging and what’s illness?
I often hear people comment when they don’t feel well or have some body part that isn’t working as it did before, “oh it’s just aging, what can I expect?” But is it? If we expect that we will decline with age, perhaps we will. Yet not everyone automatically declines with age. As Joni reports, some people have health challenges throughout their lives that do not relate to age. Some report that they feel better with more energy as they get older.
Aging is not a disease. It is another stage of life that for some is easier than others. The factors that make a difference with this vary from person to person.
In recent years there is a lot of study in the field of psychoneuroimmunology that looks at the relationship between mind and body. Apparently how we view things and talk to ourselves impacts our physical state. We are not necessarily causing our illness and no blame to the individual is intended but our attitudes and self-talk affect how we feel.
As Connie Goldman says in my film, “Greedy for Life”, “It’s not so much what happens to you but how you deal with it.”
I’d love to hear from you about this topic. What’s your experience?