We age from the time we are born. We do not have to look much further than within our own families to see that this is true, observing the growth of the children in our lives. From infancy, they become toddlers, continuing to grow over the years into adolescents and then into young adults.
As lovely as the growth stages are, there are losses that come with the stages that can bring on grief feelings of sadness and growing pains. I recall the sadness that my neighbor, a stay-at-home mom disclosed to me when her daughter, the baby of the family went for her first day of kindergarten. Although her daughter was going through a healthy rite-of-passage, she acknowledged the sadness and difficulty of letting go of the baby and toddler stage, sending her youngest offspring into the world of primary school. This same daughter is now a mother with young children of her own.
My neighbor had less of a problem entering into the stage of becoming a grandmother than she did seeing her daughter off to kindergarten. For many though, becoming a grandmother, turning 50, 60,70, 80, retiring from work, facing the wrinkles that come with age, identifying as a senior is challenging. For some, aging can cause excruciating grief.
Aging into the senior years involves experiencing situational losses especially since we live in a youth-oriented society reminding us through media and an industry of age defying products to value youth. As an older adult, the situational losses you acknowledge may include physical changes in eyesight, hearing loss and the loss of energy you had years earlier, Changed circumstances such as retirement can lead to financial loss. Also you are more likely when older to be affected with losses involving a parent, sibling or close older friend dying. You may assess more subtle losses such as people not giving you the attention or respecting your opinions the way they did when you were younger.
Here are 3 "A" coping tips to assist in working through the losses that you acknowledge and assess so you can move forward with enhanced resiliency as an older adult:
A-1. Acknowledge whether your feelings are influenced by our culture. Once acknowledging that our society values youth, take the challenge towards developing a thick skin that can see beyond and does not buy into this way of thinking. Acknowledge instead the value and wisdom that comes with age and the value of having years of past experience to draw from in order to cope and make decisions better - something that the youth are lacking since experience can only come from age.
A-2. Assess for inspiration and hope. With regards to aging, I am inspired by Betty White, whose career spans over 70 years and is still working in her 90s, Being over 90, Betty White has had years to hone her craft and is still honing as a working comedian that can easily make an audience laugh. She serves as a good aging role model. The more role models and sources of inspiration, the better.
A-3. Assist yourself with self-care. Treat yourself with tender loving care which includes eating well, getting enough rest and sleep, exercising regularly and having many enjoyable moments. Stay connected daily with others, even if the connection is through a phone call rather than face to face. Avoid isolation and participate in activities that put a smile on your face.
There are reasons for wanting to avoid aging but the truth is we can not avoid it. Sure, there are losses along the way. When we acknowledge, assess, assist, we can rather allow ourselves to face them, make resolution with them and move forward from the losses with strengthened resiliency that leads to confidence and personal growth. Although challenging, well worth the effort to reap the benefits.