Thursday, May 6, 2010

Youthful Aging

Why do some 80 year-olds seem vibrant and alive while some 60 year-olds seem prematurely old? I don't think genetics alone explains how we age. How we age has more to do with our inner attitudes than outer chronology.

A friend emailed me the following maxim: "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." While this is an oversimplification of the issue, there is some wisdom here. Those who age well are able to keep their sense of playfulness, humor and joy alive.

Aging is inevitable. It brings about changes physically, mentally and emotionally. Some of these changes are painful and impose limitations upon us. Yet, how we adapt to the changes of aging is critical. Are we able to see the opportunities in change?
Are we able to adapt to our limitations and find ways to live fully within them?

Here's an example of what I'm pointing to. A rowing friend of mine can no longer row competitively because of physical limitations. However, he has found new meaning, purpose and joy in becoming a rowing coach. He takes great pleasure in coaching his "kids" and claims this keeps him young.

We all need to discover those things and relationships that make us feel alive and joyful. We also need to be flexible and adaptable so we can find new opportunities when we are no longer able to do those life-enhancing activities. Each stage of life has its possibilities for being fully alive. Those who age youthfully are able to seize them.

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