Typically, people approach aging in one of two ways: One, they see getting older as a state of inevitable decline, or, two, they refuse to accept that it’s happening at all. I, however, see aging as the opportunity of a lifetime. In my book Mindful Aging I write about how our later years are a ripe opportunity to become more ourselves, to grow happier and more engaged in the world around us.
It’s hard to recognize aging as the opportunity it is because terrifying images of older age surround us all the time. We see gray-haired retirees riding in golf carts in commercials for medications with long lists of scary-sounding side effects (side effects include migraines, stomach pain, and unexplained bouts of rage). And we watch those one-last-adventure-before-we-die movies in which one elderly character inevitably says to another, “I’m getting too old for this.” The point I make in Mindful Aging is that there is no such thing as too old for anything. Getting older doesn’t mean you have to retire to a golf course never to be seen or heard from again.
In fact, our later years can be more productive and adventure-filled than our younger ones. Retirement doesn’t have to equal retirement home –– if that’s not what you truly want. Many of us chose partners and careers when we were quite young, maybe too young to make those choices wisely. Older age is a perfect opportunity to get back to ourselves. To pursue the hobbies that we put aside while we pursued careers and raised families. To start the businesses that we didn’t have time to start when we were working full time. To write the book or make the art we’ve relegated to our imaginations for the past four decades.
Older age can also be a time of finding new love. Whether because of divorce or loss, many of us find ourselves alone (and, yes, sometimes lonely) after 50. In my book, I talk about ways to meet people and how to develop those connections into lasting love, no matter your age. If there’s no such thing as too old when it comes to intellectual and creative pursuits, there’s definitely no such thing as too old when it comes to sex and love.
So, what does this all have to do with mindfulness? When we’re mindful, we live entirely in the moment. We don’t ignore the negative aspects of aging, but we don’t dwell on them either. We get to know ourselves and use that knowledge to make decisions about what we want out of our lives and who we want to spend our time with. We don’t force ourselves to become someone else’s idea of what a person over 50 should look like. None of us will live forever. Mindfulness provides us with the skills to live every day until our last one with as much adventure, joy, and love as possible.
Andrea Brandt, PhD, MFT, has over 35 years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist, speaker, and author. In her work, Dr. Brandt reveals positive paths to emotional health that teach you how to reinvent and empower yourself. Dr. Brandt is the author of Mindful Aging: Embracing Your Life After 50 to Find Fulfillment, Purpose, and Joy. For more information, visit www.agewithpurpose.com.