Aging Elegantly

by Tom Damron
(Plano, Texas)

Welcome the Golden Years but Only on Your Own Terms

What does aging elegantly really mean to you?

For the majority of us, it means accepting the new numbers without the futility of having to act as if you were younger to impress other elderly people. However, for others, namely those with physical and health questions, it's a less offensive word that downplays the difficulties of aging in a mobile World. A World that isn’t geared to offer much relief to change attitudes or opinions of what you may look like or what living functions you can or cannot do on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, we aren’t issued the “Manual of Acting Our Age” to guide us through the age transition of our life. Additionally, we aren’t privileged enough to have an oversupply of accessible and helpful age-identifiable role models to call on for guidance when we need it the most.

As a community, we're mired in a comparatively new and dark field when it comes to answering the question, "What is aging elegantly?"

In the early years of the last Century, the national life expectancy was only 47 years old. In the 1950s, it had progressed to age 58. In reality for earlier generations, people with gray hair were always considered "old."

Thankfully those figures are no longer the norm or true. In 2015, the recognized official Period Life Table was determined to be 80.99 years. That is quite an impressive increase in a relatively short time period.

We are now able to make our own life rules now. You grow old elegantly by choosing your personal attitudes and strengths.

Consider the origin of the word "elegant": It is an adverb that originated from the Latin term "eligere," which means splendid. Many of us seniors believe that one ‘splendid’ benefit of aging is that we recognize that we aren’t committed to pleasing anyone but ourselves. It makes no difference in how you approach the foreseeable changes that come with age, the most vital element is that we feel good about ourselves. Our elderly years are the time to celebrate our endeavors and then bask in the knowledge we've gained through our life experiences.

"You should show no regrets about aging. It's an honor denied to far too many of us." No one is certain who may have been the first to utter those words, but the sentiment of the meaning is ageless. Unfortunately, we're often bombarded by various communication that continually tell us that aging should be a negative occurrence, however, to the contrary, growing older isn't really a bad thing (because there appears to be only one alternative offered.)

When all things are considered, then, in fact, our overall contentment level tends to rise with aging. The primary reason just might be that we will face fewer stressors related to our work and our relationships as we age. But many health specialists hypothesize that we develop a more balanced perspective through our long hard-earned life experience.

Growing an understanding of our own mortality may allow us to value our lives more. We are past the years of comparing our circumstances to that of others and we spend less time is clawing to obtain additional unimportant material things.

Deep research proves that it's our attitude about and our close connection to others that influence the satisfaction in our lives. In a landmark Study of Adult Development that tracked volunteers into their 80’s and 90’s, discovered that lifestyle factors have a bigger impact on happiness levels than wealth or fame. It found that "subjective health" (how healthy you feel) has a greater impact than on us that does "objective health" (whether or not you face health issues).

The bottom line was that our feelings about becoming older can play a huge role in how we aging. That's the one identifiable lesson of why many of us seniors don't see ourselves as "old" at all. In another study, it was learned that nearly half of young adults aged 18 to 30 say they feel their age. On the other hand, 60 percent of us adults over 65 say that we feel younger than our age.

If then "old age" is not truly a stagnant stage of life, then the popular old-time phrase "you're only as young as you feel" may actually be a useful guide and change may also be the key to aging with elegance.

If we accept and follow this approach then our having stalwart social connections and our pursuit of fun activities are important mechanisms to elegantly aging. It isn’t the way we choose how well we hide our exposed signs of growing older, but how well we approach the behavior of our daily lives that makes the true difference.

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