“She looks great for her age.” How many times have you heard that? It’s a compliment, right? Not really. Praising physical appearance doesn’t acknowledge a person’s character and measuring praise by a standard of youthfulness fails to honor an important part of life.
Many of us know this but still struggle with our own aging. We slather on skin cream, cover up grey hair, or carefully apply make-up to try and make ourselves look younger. Some even go so far as to get Botox injections or spend thousands of dollars on plastic surgery. Aging is difficult to accept in a society that tells us we’re not as valuable as we used to be if we’re no longer able bodied or youthful. We’re conditioned to think that young equals attractive and happy, while old equals ugly and miserable. We’re also terrified of mortality and aging is an uncomfortable reminder of our imminent death. All of this can be very frightening.
I still remember vividly what it was like to be five years old. I remember playing during recess at school. I remember sleepovers in elementary school. I remember my first kiss, learning how to drive, and partying in college. I remember my wedding day, giving birth, and my kids’ first days of Kindergarten. The list goes on. The point is, after a certain point the past doesn’t feel so distant anymore and our bodies somehow no longer match our identity. Even though I kept living and having experiences, I feel like I stopped growing at 27. So how is it that my hair is grey and my face is lined and my kids are as old as they are? Time is a true mind melt.
As I struggle to understand how I suddenly reached this point in my life, I have a strong desire to redefine what it means to grow old. I refuse to accept the idea that my beauty is fading. Instead, I choose to believe that I’m becoming more beautiful than I’ve ever been. I want to be praised for my integrity and my accomplishments, not my looks. I refuse to believe that I’m becoming less valuable, useful, or relevant as I age. I plan to work in service to others and to express my creativity for a very long time. I aim to maintain relationships with people of all ages. I’ll never stop laughing or having fun. I choose to see myself as strong, capable, and full of life at every age. I will continue to nourish my body and mind. I will always embrace my experiences and learn from my challenges. I don’t want to look at getting older as sad but, rather, as a blessing and an opportunity. Growing older means growing more resilient, more confident, and more wise.
As a parent, and hopefully a grandparent one day, I want to set an example for younger generations. I want them to see that life doesn’t stop after a certain age. I want to model vibrancy, confidence, and wisdom. It’s going to take effort, but I won’t whine about how crappy I feel or complain about how old I look. I intend to spread joy, not despair. Because I know that every action I take impacts others around me. I want the best for my loved ones as well as myself. I want them to embrace their aging too.
When we lament growing older, we allow fear to take control. When we focus on external appearances, we are incapable of seeing clearly. When we pity the elderly, we fail to recognize their power. It is always better to be motivated by love rather than fear. So this is my attestation on aging. If I forget it, please remind me. If I falter, please help raise me up. I, of course, will do the same for you.
“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” ~David Bowie
Do you have fears of aging or do you welcome the experience? Have you had a positive role model to inspire you in your golden years? Are you tired of people being judged by shallow, ephemeral standards? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Please comment and share with anyone else who may be interested.
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.