The phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30” was coined back in the 60’s during the Free Speech Movement at UC-Berkley. It became a rallying cry for a while. And then suddenly, we were over 30. And then we were over 40, over 50, over 60…
Yet in many ways, we do not see ourselves as old. Until we look in the mirror and notice the wrinkles around our eyes, or the extra skin around our necks or the graying or loss of hair. However, I would venture to say that we are not old in the same way that we experienced our grandparents aging.
Did you ever see your grandmother in a pair of jeans? Unlikely. I remember my mother used to dress me in what she called my “college girl dress.” I don’t think I ever wore a dress in college! It is more likely that we will be rocking out on a guitar or to a favorite song, than rocking away on a rocking chair.
I would like to propose that there are benefits to growing older, but not growing old. Senior discounts are nice. I read about a sign in a health food store that stated, “Please let us know if you are chronologically gifted in order to receive a discount.” Don’t you love that? CHRONOLOGICALLY GIFTED.
We are gifted in other ways through the process of aging, but not growing old. With some of the physical limitations some of us are experiencing, we are learning to accept ourselves more completely. Doesn’t mean that we stop doing things we used to love doing. It means that we may do them differently, with more appreciation really that we are still able to do some of the things.
I am sure we have all experienced what has become commonly referred to as “senior moments.” When we become aware of this happening, it can be a bit scary. It can also allow us to laugh at ourselves a little more easily. We no longer have to be “perfect,” but we are good and that is a gift.
There is also a wisdom of what I will call, ripening. Imagine a young plant, pushing through the earth, struggling to grow tall, find the sun, produce fruit. As the fruit begins to ripen, there is a settling of the sugars into the fruit, the colors of the fruit evolve and blend. I see this in older adults also. We worked hard as young adults, building careers, families, relationships. As we move into a new stage of life, I have noticed that many of us seem to mellow. We start to be able to integrate some of the gentleness that we may have had to quiet while we were finding our place in the world. We become more open to learning about who we really are, all parts of us and become more whole, more ripe.
I would answer the question, “Do we have to grow old?” with a resounding NO.
We have to age. How we age is a choice. I have outlined above some of my ideas about growing while we age, growing more accepting of ourselves and others, growing in our ability to laugh at ourselves more easily, growing in our personal and collective wisdom.
Go forth BOOMERS (and beyond) to full lives. Choose to not grow old!