Next Avenue readers share their insights about the many benefits of growing older, including their hard-won wisdom
I’ve been poring over the many wise and intriguing reactions to Next Avenue articles, blog posts and Wrinklepedia discussion questions (the Wrinklepedia section of the site is where we actively engage visitors in chats that can help shape upcoming content.)
Our readers have many wonderful things to say about the process of getting older and how they feel about where they are in the second stage of adult life. The perspectives, passions and pursuits they’ve shared with us confirm nine core benefits to being over 50.
1. We can opt for a positive attitude. “Old age is not for sissies,” says reader Meriel Collins, 66, in response to this article. “It’s for the gutsy, the flexible, those who are still interested in having a quality life.
“I am grateful for life and the love of family and good friends,” she adds. “Just say ‘thank you’ for the good things, acknowledge what you have learned from the not-so-good and embrace the possibilities the future holds. Find a reason to get up every morning; find something to look forward to — that’s what keeps life interesting.”
Lorie Eber agrees. “There are good and bad things about every phase of life,” she writes. “Just go with glass half-full — you only get one chance, so you might as well choose to be happy!”
That point is echoed by Susan McMinn Robins. “Attitude makes the biggest difference,” she says, “and not being afraid to reinvent yourself or try new things.”
(MORE: 2 Magic Words That Can Change Your Life: Hard Fun)
2. Adventure awaits us — now’s the time to be bold. “I work on a college campus and love the hustle/bustle of the students, plus the myriad exhibits, performances, etc., at a reasonable price,” Barbara Shramo says. “I’ll be 70 this year and can’t believe it. Keep learning and moving.”
That’s exactly what Ginnis Equality does all year long, thanks to her assorted, often vigorous hobbies. “When I am not biking, I may be kayaking, which is great on hot summer days,” she writes. “I go cross-country skiing all winter, heading to groomed trails so I can ‘skate’ ski, like you see in the Olympics, only tremendously slower. I also love cooking nutritious food, playing Scottish fiddle (studied Scottish fiddle) and writing poetry.”
Helga von Harsdorf-Johnson’s pending sense of adventure is sparked by family. “My daughter and granddaughter live in Rome and intend to stay there,” she notes. “I am thinking of going there when I fully retire, it is a bit scary too since I will be old and have lived in the Washington area since 1974 … new beginnings … scary!”
3. We’ve got more wisdom and fewer regrets. “Give up regrets,” Pia Louise advises. “I almost destroyed myself over things I cannot change. … I’ve reinvented myself: I moved to a thumpin’, bumpin’ city so vibrant and alive it’s contagious.
“I do not think on the past anymore,” she says. “I have a whole new joie de vivre thing goin’ on. I’m so present to my life — I went from zero to 10. It took some time, but I could not be happier. My advice: Get up, keep goin’. You’ve come this far, be who you dream you want to be! Do it!”
4. There’s greater independence — and so many options! “I feel a sense of freedom and possibility not experienced maybe since I graduated high school!” Syndee Leigh says. “Kids doing well in their young adult lives have allowed me the opportunity to run a bit amok and feel quite young again. I may look like crap, but I am so past it. This may be my favorite phase!”
“I see my life unfolding with infinite possibilities,” Nancy Robinson writes. “I treasure the adventures and look forward to things that have not happened yet. I also love to laugh. More and more, I can laugh at myself. Some of the things I do seem pretty funny to me. What a wonderful time to be alive. I never knew getting older would be so much fun!”
Gaye Saucier Farris knows the exact same feeling. “I found a new joy,” she says, “because I have the freedom of time to finally do what I want to do, when I want to do it: volunteer at my granddaughter’s school and the community theater; join the theater guild and a book club of extraordinary women; and even celebrate with a ‘girls night out’ group from my tiny neighborhood that is full of the friendliest people I have ever known. After years of my editing science research, out of the blue came a commission to edit a novel.”
5. Life is less selfish these days. “We can focus on our inner selves, on who we really are,” Sandy Interrante eloquently states. “In the later stages of life, it’s a gift if we can focus on others with kindness and compassion when they need it. To be able to really listen to others will leave a far greater imprint than trying to look younger. A kind word, a moment of caring, an attempt to help will ripple out into the universe with positive energy that will bring us purpose and self-respect in our final years.”
6. There’s joy to be found in all kinds of simple things. Jacqueline Burke Howard’s daily To Do list doesn’t come across as a litany of chores. “I paint, walk my dog, read lots and do more cooking, church work and activities,” she reports. “I notice the beauty of nature more too. God is good. I can be as happy as I want to be.”
(MORE: Pursuing Passions in New Places)
Reading is a great passion for many Next Avenue visitors and they are immersing themselves more deeply now than ever before. “I’m an avid reader — real books, not e-books,” Leslie Blackston Favors says. “I read every day. Favorite topics are finance, health and fitness, science and cooking.”
Marcie A. Rosenzweig, along with many other Next Avenue readers, counts gardening among her hobbies: “I’m a dirt addict so I garden as much as my body will let me,” she says. “I used to have an organic vegetable farm, so the garden keeps my sanity.”
7. We’re curious about the future and determined to keep moving forward. Tm Willingham speaks to “the value of having the age and maturity to be able to self-assess without self-consciousness, and decide if I like what I see in the mirror,” she says. “I tend to embrace change — I just had a conversation with someone about this. I like seeing what’s around the next corner, learning a new skill, trying something I’ve never tried before, improving myself by finding a way to overcome what I might consider a personal shortcoming. Every time I succeed at something new, I feel empowered to try something else. And when I don’t succeed, I’m old/mature enough to know it’s only a temporary setback, not a life sentence.”
8. We can choose to move more lightly through the world. Bill Lavery details his plan to shed all but the essentials as he takes up residence in a new locale each year. “Downtown Kansas City, midtown Manhattan, Old Town Toronto. They start out foreign, but quickly become domestic. Future locations to include Montreal, Belgium, Alsace. … We keep moving lighter and lighter and picking up nothing that can’t be left behind to Goodwill. We only rent fully furnished apartments and don’t keep cars, renting those for special needs only. People say that they would like to get to their college weight. My goal is to get back down to my college possessions.”
9. We can focus on expressing love in all kinds of ways. Karen Irving is quick to acknowledge one of the keys to showing care and concern. “Definitely hugs,” she says, “but even more important is listening to the person — really listening, not just nodding at the appropriate moments — and asking questions that show I want to understand what they’re talking about.
“I’m also a fan of the heartfelt compliment,” she adds. “I don’t offer them lightly, so when I tell my kids I’m proud of something they’ve done, they know I really mean it.”
Macia Riis Tyrol deals with her loved ones in a similar way. She spends time with them “doing what they love to do,” she says. “I keep connected and present in their lives with phone calls, texts and emails. Most importantly, I tell them they matter, that I am here for them and I believe in them.”