I think our attitudes during the aging process are completely in line with our innate personality. As we get older, our true selves show more and more while we lose some of the facade we may have had when we became more concerned with the surrounding society. You may find that some of the most physically weak people you know have weak bodies, still bright eyes and ready smiles, accompanied by an interest in those around them and an eagerness to hear everything you say have to tell them.
If you think back to their younger years, you are sure to find that they were people who were always involved in interesting conversations. You also know people who are ruthlessly bearish, whom you prefer to avoid. If you look back on their life, you will likely find that you were always afraid to talk to them. The people who are self-centered, fatalistic, and presumptuous are not like that because of their age; it is who they are.
I have just reached social security age and remember that I recognized my true self just 12 years ago. For years I was only defined by who I was to others: daughter, wife, mother; but at 50 I realized that I was still present as my own person. I’ve heard from friends how you are invisible after the age of 50, being completely ignored at the counter, while young, lively people are looked after.
I don’t know how to change society’s view of the aging population, but I can change my own view of aging. I can improve my health by changing the things that I am in control of. I can stay busy with family and friends even if it’s more convenient to lounge on the couch. I can take advantage of learning opportunities in libraries, history clubs and lectures. I can stretch, not just to grab tacos, but also to stretch my muscles, mind, and imagination. I can pursue passions and create new dreams. I can look for what gives me pleasure. I can laugh or cry depending on what is real in the moment. I can be authentic, no matter what age.
Anne VandeMoortel, a regular columnist, is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist and collector of people and their stories.
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