Aging is like sex; everyone talks about it as if it were only discovered yesterday. The fact is, it is a unique experience for each person and our culture dictates how well we age by defining it in terms of the image of youth being retained or reconstructed. I felt as if I had completed a journey.As I've become older, I've noticed still older people than me who maintain a real sense of dignity in their persona; having not known them when they were younger, I don't know how they were in their youth, but I think that aging gracefully is a sign of character rather than a look or the number of gray hairs one has (or a bald head, for that matter!).I decided long ago that I wanted to age gracefully. Living in England helped an enormous amount with that; there is nowhere else one can learn to age gracefully. Watching the older people still active about their farms and pubs and shops lifted my spirits. I knew that I wanted to be like them when it was my turn. Meeting retired professors who were happy to share their knowledge yet still had an active curiosity inspired me to vow to never lose my sense of exploration and adventure.There are no two ways about it, we live in a fast-moving, disposable society. Aging is not accounted for in one's life and heaven help us if we become disabled or sick or lose our mental faculties. I am not counting those circumstances in this essay, other than to say that I’ve seen people in nursing homes and assisted living homes that have dignity and are intelligent even if they can’t remember eating the meal that was just cleared from the table a half hour ago. Those people are treated with more respect and genuine affection than the ones who whine and cry and long for their youth and do nothing but feel sorry for themselves.
As I get older, I realize how important it is to see what is happening in the world, to go for walks in my neighborhood and take in the teeming life around me. While I am still middle-aged, I can feel the stiffness creeping into my bones and a good stretch is a turn in the right direction.
I don't want to go for a walk because I need the exercise for medical reasons. I don't want to have to do anything, but most likely I will, and I hope to accept it with the grace of those who have gone before me. I remember a time in my doctor's office when I was in my 20's; an elderly man was being told by my doctor that he was going to have to use a cane. He didn't immediately respond to the news, but the doctor told him that they were making wonderful canes these days, and he would be able to shop for just the right one and that he would look distinguished.
That memory sticks in my head. If I ever have to use a cane, I hope I use it with style. Style is important at any age, but in aging it becomes more so; if anyone tries to dress too young they look like fools. I don't think someone is aging gracefully when they wear hip-hop clothes and they are in their late 40's.
In watching my own behavior, I've learned that aging gracefully is truly a mark of character. It's not something one can fake. It's difficult to do, too. I've learned that I can't specifically focus on aging gracefully; I focus on being a better person today than I was yesterday.
In my own opinion, aging gracefully is a state of mind rather than a physical thing. But when the state of mind is in harmony with the body, then the grace is there. It doesn't do any good to simply hold a certain posture in order to intentionally look dignified or graceful. The grace that I speak of comes from within, from continually probing my motives for