It appears that what accounts most for successful aging is simply a good attitude, a lust for living, resilience, an optimistic outlook, and an active lifestyle.
I have been lucky to have some really good role models in this area. My mother paid so little attention to how old she was that when she was asked her age, she always had to calculate back from the year she was born. Hence, the message was that it wasn’t important enough to walk around with it in your head, and it wasn’t anything to hide or be ashamed of. I’ve always thought if you lie about your age, then people may think you look really bad for the age you claim to be.
We are very fortunate in this day and age to know that we can look and be terrific until the day we die.
There are so many fantastic role models out there for us. Examples are Katharine Hepburn, Margaret Thatcher, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
How it used to be
According to Den Dychtwald, the author of Age Wave, “Throughout 99 percent of all the years that humans have walked this planet, the life expectancy was under 18 years. We have never before had a mass population of older people. Until very recently, most people didn’t age, they died.” [Den Dychtwald, Age Wave, Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY: J. P. Tarcher Publisher, 1989.]
He continues, “How drastic an effect this will have on our lives and the traditional or middle-class values and mentalities. Life used to be so linear. You graduated from school; you maybe lost a few years dating, going to Europe, or tripping around in jobs; then you settled down and got married, bought a house, had a baby, spent 20-30 years raising them; and then if you were really lucky, you had a pension and you retired.”
More options today
Life for all of us can be much more promising, much more interesting, and much more flexible than that scenario. Many baby boomers have lived a 20 to 30-year adolescence, not really committing to jobs, children, or spouses. No generation before us has ever had such an extended youth and the opportunities available to enjoy true health and wealth. We have been offered so many options by this extended life span.
Aging really is all in your perception. Think you’re old and you are. Think you’re young and you are. I have seen so many people hit 40 and you can almost see them age and collapse before your very eyes in the length of time it takes them to tell you the sad story of how awful it is. And the entire time I’m thinking, “Hmm, two months ago you weren’t that much younger, but you sure were a lot more interesting, a lot more fun. I don’t get it; you’re only two months older than you were last time I saw you, and your life didn’t look so bleak then.”
It’s just getting stuck in your own negative and small universe. Open up! Smile! Do what makes you happy! Take excellent care of yourself, love yourself, and treat yourself to what you know will make you look and feel better. Take control, quit whining, get busy, and help someone less fortunate than yourself.
Whining about your age should be one of the mortal sins; forbidding it should be the eleventh commandment. After Buddha said, “Be a lamp unto yourself,” I think he should have added, “Thank God every morning for the continued gift of life.”
Whining about your age is spitting in the Creator’s face; it’s saying, “Hey, I’m sad you let me continue to live.” I mean, if death is sad, then shouldn’t life be good? Isn’t that why we celebrate birthdays? Hey, one more year. Thank you, God. I am going to get with my close friends and celebrate my good fortune of continued life.
Complaining about age doesn’t make sense. It is not even a problem, therefore it cannot have a solution.
Now, I am not saying people can’t whine about not feeling good, health problems, and life’s frustrations. But to complain only because you haven’t died yet is ridiculous.
My theory on age is that since we have a life expectancy of at least ten more years than when we did when we were born, we can employ this: If you are 50, well, then you are really only 40, and if you are 40, 30, and if you are 30, you are only 20. It’s all in your head, so employ my theory and feel ten years younger. It’s the truth, you really do have ten more years, so start enjoying your windfall now, today! Why wait until the ten years between 80 and 90? Get your extra ten years in now.
Baby boomers are the luckiest generation ever. Up until the early 1970s, turning 30 was a drastic sign of aging for a woman, and God forbid if you hadn’t snagged a husband yet. You were too old to have children. I escaped the dreaded aging game, which is demonstrated by the old saying, “A beautiful woman dies twice, once when she loses her looks and again when they bury her.”
Perhaps I never thought of myself as the least bit attractive; I knew “my good looks” were not going to open doors for me. Good looks do open doors, and they get you invited in, but I don’t think they get you invited back for the important events. So I figured I had to develop my brains. I had the good fortune of teachers, counselors, and tests telling me I had brains. (An interesting caveat to all this is if you ask my high school chums, they would not confirm I was that unattractive, and if you ask my family, they would not confirm anyone told me I was that smart—but don’t ever underestimate the power of perception. My perception was that I was not attractive, and so maybe I had to cling to the fact I was smart, because I had to have something going for me.)
We are the luckiest generation of women in the history of the world. Look at how drastically better our lives are than our mothers. This is not to say that a lot of our mothers weren’t really happy with their lives, but you had better have wanted children and a husband, and you better have landed yourself a good one.
Women my age are even more lucky. We had so many role models, so many women around who were 10 to 40 or more years older than us, beautiful, brainy, and sexy, letting us know that we too could look good at their ages.
So let’s get up each morning and before we start our busy days, let’s take a moment to thank God for this precious gift of life. Let’s thank God that we as American women have it better than any other women on the planet, and better than any other women in history.
If all this doesn’t help, here are some cold facts: About 80% of Americans live normal active lives until the end of their lives. Disease, incontinence, cataracts, depression, and senility are not a normal part of aging among most Americans.
If, for one minute, you think you are too old to accomplish your dreams, consider the following from The Speaker’s Sourcebook by Glenn Van Ekeren:
- George Burns did not receive his first Oscar until he was 80.
- Golda Meir did not become prime minister of Israel until she was 71.
- Michelangelo was 71 when he painted the Sistine Chapel.
- Grandma Moses did not start painting until she was 80; she completed over 1500 paintings and over 300 of those were done after she was 100.
- At 58, Doc Counsilman became the oldest person to swim the English Channel. [Glenn Van Ekeren, The Speaker’s Sourcebook, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1998.]
Jack London had it right
“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not spend my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
The trick, I think, is to live fully in beauty, health, and happiness your entire life, from beginning to end, thanking your Maker for each and every moment you are given life on earth.
For more information and beauty tips you can purchase Beauty, Health and Happiness–A way of life an online version for only $2.99!