How do you change the perception of aging?

Posted by Merry, Volunteer Mentor @merpreb, Jun 19, 2020

I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I mean a lot of thinking about aging and accepting certain facts that go with it. It's a tough job. I look in the mirror and the girl who I expect to see is no longer there. Where did she go? How long ago did she disappear? Has someone else taken her place? Why can't I accept what I see instead of being depressed? I've wondered what kind of changes I can make to be more accepting of myself.

For way too long "old age" myths, the media, and cosmetic industries have dictated how women should feel about themselves. What they say or imply is an injustice to women and enhances the notion that aging isn’t good. They want us to mask our looks, change the color of our hair, and let someone cut us so that our skin looks stretched and fresh and young! Looking young is not being young. The first thing that I have to get rid of is the term, "feeling old." Old is not a feeling. It's a fact, a state of being. So what does this mean? It means that I need other words to describe how I'm feeling. Perhaps I might be feeling low about something, or I'm in pain or feel lonely, feeble, burdensome, or demoralized. And these words are the words that describe me when I feel "old".

I can’t feel young either. Youth is not a feeling. But at times I feel energetic, courageous, beautiful, healthy, and active. Feeling well makes me feel that there is the promise of tomorrow, I'm happy and healthy-ish. I can't change the way I look or my genetic make-up. But I can strive to feel my best, and feel a sense of well-being and satisfaction in doing what is best for me. I can pursue what I know to be my purpose, my passions at this time. Not what I want to do or dream to do but things that make me feel whole, complete, wanted, needed, and loved. Purposes, my life passions, that make me think and feel whole. If this means putting color in my hair or trying a new lip color, then that’s what I’ll do. Not because I look “old or wan” but because I want to do it.

Because of my stage 4 lung cancer, my bucket list has changed. I no longer can think in terms of “Well I have plenty of time.” My bucket list consists of todays. What to do today, where do I go today, what do I read, eat, and think today. My lists no longer have unrealistic goals for the future but doctors' appointments, lab work, and rest. My plans are to do things that make me feel like I have a purpose and that I feel are important in everything I do, things that have meaning for me. My purpose for resting is so that I can later feel more refreshed for a walk, or meeting a friend. My purpose for drinking lots of water is so that I don't get dehydrated and feel ill. My purpose is to nag my husband to be careful on his runs, make sure his clothes are clean, and that he eats clean fresh food. My purpose is to hug him and tell him that I love him as much as I can. I need to feel fulfilled by talking to my son and maybe irritate him too. I’m a mother. It makes me feel good. My bucket list might not stretch very far into the future but it sure is full.

By changing how I think, with a different vocabulary, maybe I can help change the perception of aging. And this might help me so that when I look in the mirror I might see some of the old me and not the aged me.

@merpreb

@marjou– Good morning. I remember the 70's. I did both in the 70's- Married and had a son and was involved in the women's movement. I thought that it was an incredible time, exciting, and energizing. All of my friends were in the same boat that I was too so it made it a very special time. I just wish that I had been less naive.

How young people perceive us is a laughable offense if it weren't so sad. The perception that time and activities stop when you get to a certain age by society is pathetic. I'm sure that age labeling goes on for many economic reasons but it is damaging to the ego! There are a lot of youtube videos that deal with fashion and makeup for older women but not many discussions, if any, about all of the activities that we still do, including dating and having sex, and lifting weights!

When my mom was in the hospital for Parkinson's she had a fever and when the doctor mentioned it she said, "well doc I'm not dead yet!"

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@merpreb yes can so relate to your mom's words!

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@marjou

Thanks Dave for your responses. I live in a rural area in the Southwest and do love salsa and a bit of two step dancing, but pandemic has put a damper on that for now. Depression has kicked in and just needed to vent on my current state of life. Thanks for helping me remember something that gave me joy.

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@marjou I know it's not the same – but adaptation is the theme of 2020 – have you considered line dancing to stay on your feet, and combat the black fog? Throughout our lockdown this Spring, we continued our weekly line dancing sessions – socially distanced, on our neighbor's covered carport. Still miss our old-time dancing – and our band friends are champing at the bit to get back to playing, but I'm afraid it's a bit too soon for indoor gatherings…
Sue

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Sue: Wow! they live 150 miles from one another and they are not tech savvy? Does the latter mean they can't email one another? I think your friend should try to get involved with events and activities closer to home. Where does your friend live? In my case I am in a big city and although all the things I like to do – going to the Frick Museum or the Metropolitan are not open to me now. The Frick offers two programs online that are wonderful but I am a member and receive their virtual programs online each Wednesday and Friday at 5 pm. It might be offered on You tube, but it sounds like your neighbor is not technical at all with Iphones or emails. Perhaps there is something else for her if she is in assisted living. I doubt if I can offer any ideas for her not knowing enough about her situation, health, education and abilities. We all have to do the best we can with what we are blessed with at this point in time.

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@sueinmn

@marjou I know it's not the same – but adaptation is the theme of 2020 – have you considered line dancing to stay on your feet, and combat the black fog? Throughout our lockdown this Spring, we continued our weekly line dancing sessions – socially distanced, on our neighbor's covered carport. Still miss our old-time dancing – and our band friends are champing at the bit to get back to playing, but I'm afraid it's a bit too soon for indoor gatherings…
Sue

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@sueinmn I do put on music via YouTube and dance by myself but as you say it's not the same.

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@sapphira

Sue: Wow! they live 150 miles from one another and they are not tech savvy? Does the latter mean they can't email one another? I think your friend should try to get involved with events and activities closer to home. Where does your friend live? In my case I am in a big city and although all the things I like to do – going to the Frick Museum or the Metropolitan are not open to me now. The Frick offers two programs online that are wonderful but I am a member and receive their virtual programs online each Wednesday and Friday at 5 pm. It might be offered on You tube, but it sounds like your neighbor is not technical at all with Iphones or emails. Perhaps there is something else for her if she is in assisted living. I doubt if I can offer any ideas for her not knowing enough about her situation, health, education and abilities. We all have to do the best we can with what we are blessed with at this point in time.

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@sapphira They are both in their own homes, as couples they were friends since childhood, and lost spouses the same year. It is a lovely friendship and I encourage her to maintain it… They are both very involved close to their homes, which is why the relationship remains a distance one. She told me they each plan to self-quarantine for two weeks in July, then he will come to visit for a week or two. All of her/our senior activities are still closed in centers and churches so contacts are hard to come by if you're not tech capable…

I am excited because I just arranged an outdoor visit with my 94 yo friend and her resident daughter. During the visit I will configure her PC with Zoom so she can join our Master Gardener meetings. A mutual friend is doing the same for one of the other non-tech-savvy MG's who is her close friend so they can see each other again. We made a plan last week to reach out and do this for as many MG's as possible because it looks like we may be in "distance mode" for a long while – especially those of us who are older, have risk issues, or are caretakers.

Covid-19 is starting to look like a marathon instead of a 5k race! I won't feel safe until we have an effective vaccine.

Sue

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