“The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor and style.” Maya Angelou
Each stage of life has unique challenges and gifts. Whether we experience the gifts depends on our approach to the challenges. The gist of this critical lesson applicable to all life stages simply said is: You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control the way you respond. This is especially true for the life stage called the third act or 60 years plus. The 20th century added 30 years of life expectancy in the developed world. A second adulthood has been added to life. We hear that the current aging population, the baby boomers are rewriting the book on aging. They are defying the aging process itself, with 60 years of age becoming the new 40 years. The reality of defying the aging process has much to do with one’s attitude to its daily challenges, including aging spurts.
An older friend introduced me to the notion of aging spurts saying: “You know how you have growth spurts in your youth as your body grows, well you have aging spurts as you get older too.” The aging spurt is a sudden decline in appearance or abilities following a plateau of living with a certain look or physical well-being. Aging spurts are nasty business! The aging spurt can catch people by surprise when they see a photo or catch a glimpse of themselves in a mirror at first wondering who is that? Sometimes it’s the shock of experiencing distress when an activity that yesterday seemed effortless is difficult today. How we cope with our aging spurts determines the quality of this gift of a longer life, should we be so lucky! I scan my environment for examples of graceful adjustments to aging spurts.
Recently, we had friends over for a casual dinner. They had just moved from a lovely home on a hill, to a modern loft apartment. Our dinner gave them a break from move-related work. We talked about having to move when, the physical limitations that come with the blessing of getting older, make aging in place impossible. Our conversation prompted me to exclaim, “It’s like being in college again! You have an apartment in a trendy neighborhood; you’re working a little but not too much and traveling a lot to learn from new experiences. Only it’s better, because you’re not broke or anxious about choosing the right path to success, you’ve been there, done that.” This observation shifted the theme of the conversation from the work related to the move to the advantages they saw in their new place; multigenerational living, interesting events nearby, access to public transportation in a walkable neighborhood. They are thriving in style!
“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson