Life gets better as we get older, on all levels except the physical. Wendy Lustbader, Life Gets Better
Last year, AARP joined with six other prominent aging organizations to study people’s attitudes about aging. In a report called ‘Gauging Aging,’ this consortium found that the American public largely sees aging as a process of deterioration, dependency, reduced potential, family dispersal and digital incompetence. ‘These deep and negative shared understandings make the process of aging something to be dreaded and fought against, rather than embraced as a process that brings new opportunities and challenges,’ the report states. This is important, because the negative stories we tell ourselves and one another about aging lead to negative behaviors that, in turn, create a negative reality of aging. The view of aging as decline becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Wendy Lustbader, a gerontological social worker who also knows a thing or two about the aging process, published Life Gets Better: The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older in 2011.
Ten ways this happens (“Ten Ways LIfe Gets Better As We Get Older,” Huffington Post):
1. Our confidence grows.
2. Our self-knowledge deepens.
3. We get better at relationships.
4. We handle decision-making, the crossroads of life, with less frenzy.
5. Our courage becomes nimble.
6. We become more interested in others.
7. Our spirituality deepens.
8. We become more vivacious.
9. We slow down and see further.
10. Unexpected pleasures become abundant.
Some illuminating quotes from Lustbader’s interview with Julia M. Klein, AARP:
Younger people think older adults aren’t having sex, and that is a huge myth. There’s plenty of sexual activity going on and lots of joy attached to it. If we manage to be with a partner over a long duration, intimacy only gets sweeter.
There’s so much more freedom because we’re not comparing ourselves to other people the way we did when we were younger.
…Life doesn’t get better for everyone. And the two big exceptions are people who are overwhelmingly self-centered, and people who are stuck in the detours of alcoholism and drugs.
Financial issues are not what determine your happiness — it’s how you deal with the circumstances you’re in. Even if you are on quite a limited income, that does not equate with unhappiness. That’s borne up in the research.
If we pay attention to the aspects of life that are better — so we know who we are, we know how we want to live, we know what’s important to us — it helps us to keep from focusing on what’s difficult.
There is this huge need to contribute to one’s community that we’re going to see with the baby boomers more than ever before.
I challenged my grandmother, who did not want to go to a senior center and be around “all those old people.” I said, “There could be other live wires disguised as old people.” She went and found four people who were fabulously alive and wonderful. As we get older, we become more and more different from one another because we become more and more ourselves. We have to open our eyes and see each other.
We may need each other more as we age, but that’s okay. As Lustbader remarks in Life Gets Better, “Life improves when we attend to our interdependence…Those who do not miss a chance to make life easier for someone else wake up each day with eagerness and have less fear about their own future.”