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The surprising potential of our senior years

Does life have to diminish as we grow older? Or can we find new and perhaps surprising ways to keep growing and expanding and giving our gift despite the challenges of aging?

I’ve been thinking of these things since an unusual encounter at my gym the other day.

I’ve been doing resistance training for 10 years. It’s a lifeline for me. The other day I was finishing up my routine on a machine that targets the abdomen when a young fellow came over to me. He had a friendly smile on his face as he looked at me.

“How old are you?” he asked me in a simple, straightforward way. More directly I’m sure than would have happened in the Britain of my youth:-).

I had never met this man but smiled back and told him my age. He positively beamed and said how happy he was to realize we don’t have to go downhill as we age but can stay vigorous and active.

A door to renewal and growth

I’m 80 on Friday, one of many older people who realize they do not have to be subject to stereotypes about aging, and that despite its challenges it can be a time of remarkable promise and opportunity.

I was charmed and delighted last evening when I saw a clip on the evening news of a good-looking 89-year-old man being honored at a graduation ceremony at a US university. How happy and proud he looked, and he deserved to be happy and proud.

Every life is unique. But here are some ways in which I am finding a remarkable potential in aging that I perhaps could not have imagined when I was a young fellow wrapped up in my busy activities and goals.

I am becoming more conscious every day of my true nature. A longing that was in me ever since my youth is being fulfilled and I am so grateful. Simply feeling the presence of my true nature — the timeless wisdom and truth that dwells at the core of each one of us — is a delight that never ends.

My appreciation for the magic of little moments is increasing. It takes a very small thing to make me happy — stopping to watch a bird in flight, or chatting for a moment with the serving lady at my coffee shop is more than enough.

The gift of empathy

My love for people is growing. “Everyone’s doing their best,” I say to my wife, though it may be time to think of a new line as far as that’s concerned:-). Perhaps it’s because I’m not in such a hurry, perhaps it’s because the years — and my own suffering — have made me more capable of empathy and compassion.

I have always loved Nature, and the lessons of Nature, but honor her more each day for the gifts she gives with such generosity. We have a creek just below our townhome complex that flows all year long and I never tire of listening to the sweet sounds that this creek makes as it hurries past rocks and other obstacles to wherever it is going.

I see past challenges in a new way

I see the various traumas and challenges of my life in a new way. I used to think that some of the events in my past were terrible and unjust, but now I realize they actually opened a door to greater freedom and happiness.

My love for my wife, JoAnn, deepens every day. I see more and more deeply into her strong, enduring, caring spirit and I wonder how I could be so lucky. Except I don’t think it is luck really, I think a hand of grace was with us and brought me to her and me to her.

And last (though I think I could go on for a long time:-) I see my father in a new light. A beautiful light. I could not connect with him when he lived but I connect with him now and I love him as I love my mother and others who have departed this realm. I know they bless me as I continue in my journey of renewal and change.

Truly, our bodies age, but our spirit does not know what age is.

I send greetings and best wishes. I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you have any thoughts or experiences you’d like to share please write.

Picture credit:   ymcapdx

 


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