Updated: May 5, 2022
In a recent conversation I shared that at an upcoming talk I was going to pose the question, "Who here is aging?"
I said my hunch was that I wouldn’t see many hands raise from people under the age of 50, or possibly 40.
The person suggested the follow-up question, "Who here is getting older?"
His hunch was that most people would raise their hands.
We are all both getting older and aging. The difference is that aging has a negative connotation. People think of aging as declining in ability, both mental and physical. They associate aging with aged, or old. Oddly enough, an aged steak has more value, as does a wine that becomes finer with age.
The fact remains that aging is a process. We are all older than we were a year ago, a month ago, a day ago, etc. etc. Getting older is part of an aging process. Getting older is often thought of as maturing with the progress and passage of time, while aging is often associated with, and defined, as, the process of tissues breaking down in the body.
In looking up the aging process of plants I was struck by the similarity to the aging process of people and use of the same word: senescence. Similar to people, plant senescence is the process of aging; plants have both stress-induced and age-related developmental aging.
This process is one that leads to tissue and organ decay and that, in the case of annual, biennial and/or monocarpic plants, (plants that flower only once and then die) leads to the death of the plant itself.
I couldn't help but see the similarity to the human experience. What really struck me was that most people go to great lengths to keep their plants alive. As a person lacking a prized green thumb, I know I continue to attend to my plants even when they appear to be on their way out. I dote over them, talk to them, and appreciate having them in my midst.
It struck me that, though we may feel that way about the older adults in our families or amongst our friends, as a society we don't feel the same way towards older adults in our communities.
Our bodies are made up of approximately 13 trillion cells that comprise our tissues and organs. These are held together with various materials made by the supporting structures, or cells.
From the moment we are conceived, each of our cells, our tissues, and organs, begins a process of aging. Though in our early growing years the numbers of our cells are ever expanding, the are also actually ageing, but doing so ever so slightly and; therefore, it is a process that is barely noticeable.
Aging is a gradual, continuous process of natural change that begins in early adulthood.
When we reach our 30s, the early signs of aging begin to become apparent. Some of the tell-tale signs may be seen in our skin, bones, joints, digestive, cardiovascular systems, nervous systems, etc. Experts suggest that the normal skin aging process begins at about 25 years of age when there is a progressive reduction in the amount of collagen manufactured, causing the skin to lose elasticity. Another example may be that our metabolism starts to gradually decline. (a process that may begin as early as the age of 20) Other more noticeable hormonal changes may begin to occur in the 40s and 50s as well as other more visible outward changes (i.e., hearing, vision)
There is no denying the effects of time on our bodies. Though we can slow the impact of decline in some areas, we cannot prevent them altogether. Moreover, science does not yet fully understand the complex interplay of factors that cause us to age as we do. We know factors that affect aging include: genetics, diet, exercise, illness, and a host of others.
In actuality, aging reflects the relationship of time on our being. For the most part, aging describe, the state of our body. Old, on the other hand, can be thought of as our mind state or mindset.
Ask yourself this question? Do you know or can think of someone that is age 75, 85 or even 90+ who has the spirit, attitude and activity level of a person half that age; or someone age 40 that acts like they are double that age?
If your response to either of these questions was “yes” you have acknowledged that a person’s attitude can separate someone who is aging from someone who is identified as old. I read the following reference in an article about aging which seemed worthy of mention here: Paul the apostle in his letter to Corinth may have said it best, "though our outward man perishes, our inward man is renewed day by day."
Several experts have identified and broken down the ageing process into 5 stages:
Stage 1: Independence. – this could be considered early adulthood
Stage 2: Interdependence – the middle adult years
Stage 3: Dependency.- the older adult age
Stage 4: Crisis Management.- the frail, infirm age
Stage 5: End of Life.
Choosing to live an engaged life is not an accident; it is a purposeful and intentional choice, a choice to live every day to the highest potential or ability at any point in time. People who live in this way are not in denying the reality of the end of life but rather realize that life is meant to be lived.
We are the ship in our life’s journey. It is our attitude that is the driving force steering our ship. We have to remain intentional and mindful, caring for and tending to our attitude. If not, we allow ourselves to fall prey to the pitfalls of life, as with a ship that strays off course when encountering rough waters, we will drift into a kind of holding pattern letting the water and waves take us where they will. This is an act of surrendering.
After observing older adults who he identified as forever young, forever passionate, and forever engaged, Mitch Anthony, in a 2013 Market Watch article, cleverly identified what he called the five Vitamin Cs of successful aging. He use the term vitamin Cs based on what he identified as providing the essential energy to our lives. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/growing-old-vs-aging-the-5-cs-to-successful-aging-2013-12-23
1, Vitamin C1: Connectivity — The important of remaining connected has been brought to light, especially the recent pandemic experience. It is a cornerstone for well-being. The detrimental effects of disconnecting are well documented.
2, Vitamin C2: Challenge — Continue challenging your mind. Retiring from regular employment does not mean retiring your mind from meaningful activity. Keeping your mind engaged and intellectually challenged staves off degenerative cognitive processes that lead to Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. Intellectual stimulation is akin to the walls of a dam.
3. Vitamin C3: Curiosity —Curiosity is fundamental to surviving and thriving as human beings, and even more so when you are retired. There is no age limit on learning, whether it be pursuing a life -long passion, learning a new skill, new language, or new way of doing something.
4. Vitamin C4: Creativity — “A creative soul looks at the shoreline and sees something new everyday.” Many an accomplishment has been attained later in life. Grandma Moses began painting at the age of 78. Her paintings have been sold around the world and at the age of 88 was named “Young Woman of the Year” by Mademoiselle magazine. Peter Drucker was able to wrote his business best-seller book on management in his 90s.
5. Vitamin C5: Charity — Giving to others has been linked to our own happiness. Charitable giving does not have to involve a monetary transaction. A kind word, a smile, a gesture of concern can go a long way in warming the heart of another and has been known to warm our own hearts as well.
In conclusion, the path to successful positive aging is a mindset. Practice mindful longevity; Embrace a healthy aging attitude for yourself and towards others.
Be positive about your station in life. Follow and support: openlygray.org
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