Growing Older Isn’t For Sissies

As my friend Herb often says, “Growing older isn’t for sissies.” Everyday, we 50+ folks know he’s right. Along with all the other issues we face, as a man, I long ago had that experience of looking in the mirror and seeing my father. For women, aging in a society that celebrates glamour and youth, the mirror can become a dreaded enemy.

Each year, we seniors spend millions of dollars trying to look better (younger) and that probably isn’t a bad thing. When I compare our generation to previous ones, I do believe we are in pretty good shape physically and have aged quite well. I think it’s great that the majority of us continue to groom ourselves nicely and dress somewhat fashionably. I smile while writing that last line because I’ve never been known as a “clothes horse.” If you don’t understand that reference, you’re too young to be reading this blog.

So, what’s the point? The point is, as seniors, we will not win the battle against physical aging. We should stay in good condition, eat well and all the rest, but we are not going to overcome the changes aging will bring about. The wrinkles will come ever faster, the hair we love will thin, and the hair we don’t want will flourish. We need to develop an attitude of acceptance toward physical aging. Of course, my wife Trisha does not accept my view on this subject and has vowed to “go down swinging.”

I raise this issue to preface what I consider to be a more important aspect of the aging process, our minds. To me, the biggest difference I observe among people as they get older is not physical, but mental. I’m not talking about loss of mental acuity, but simply how people use or don’t use their minds. Some seem very engaged concerning current events, new ideas, and even strive to be creative and contribute to society. As Trisha and I wrote in our book, it seems as though retired life for many simply means not having a job any longer. We discovered so many folks in our age group who did not have a plan or set goals for their future. This isn’t a criticism per se because we firmly believe everyone should spend every phase of their lives as they choose. We simply find it curious that so many find themselves in such deep routines, often seem bored, and quite frankly, unhappy. The fact is, planning or not, life does happen.

In our case, my wife and I can’t think of anything more interesting or rewarding than meeting new people, having new experiences, creating something new, or seeing new places around the corner or around the world. I often think about the question I used to get during my teaching career. It was, “Why do you like teaching?” My response was always, “Because I learn so much.” I had to continually read new books, review the latest research, meet new students, learn and evaluate new ideas, and create ways to put them forth. It was always new and exhilarating. I guess that helped shape my views on how I wanted to spend my retired life. I can only say it works for me and my wife, but others must choose the path that works best for them. Choose wisely. As someone once said, “This is your life; it’s not the dress rehearsal.” We’ll drink to that.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

 

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