Being old and feeling/acting old are not equivalent, however. We can manage our thoughts and our speech, to focus on the good and positive and energetic. We may have fewer years ahead then we’ve had behind, but we’re not dead yet and in fact, research is showing that our attitudes about age can affect our life expectancy:
This research found that older individuals with more positive self-perceptions of aging, measured up to 23 years earlier, lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging. This advantage remained after age, gender, socioeconomic status, loneliness, and functional health were included as covariates.
So there is an element of mind over matter, it seems, in having a longer, happier life. Here are some of my own tips for not thinking “old”, nor drifting down the River Denial.
Listen to music and dance as often as possible. Dip your toe into modern music and don’t stick only to the tunes of your own youth. There’s always good music being created. If you have Spotify or Pandora, try spooling up current hits. Or alternately, treat yourself to some Broadway tunes, new and old.
Walk around your town/city and learn something new, and if you’re really lucky, end up at your favorite pub or coffee shop. One of my 85+ year-old acquaintances, Jeannie, was a regular at our local watering hole, enjoying a beer and a chat. One day she fell, and never recovered from her injury; she died about a week later. But she wasn’t sad or mad about being 85. She was enjoying every day, two blocks from her home.
Wear something “young” and unexpected. A question I ask myself is “would my mother have worn this at 63?” And if yes, it’s probably not for me. She was lovely and very traditional/conservative. I’m not so traditional, and love to wear graphic tees, funky Doc Martens, and jumpsuits.
Read new-to-you topics and keep learning/thinking/acting up. It doesn’t have to be about politics (I’m taking a break from the news), but maybe the practice of banning girls and women to “menstruation huts” in parts of Nepal. “Misogyny exists in every culture and I think it boils down to men’s fear of female power,” says the article. Food for thought and future posts.
Never say: “kids these days” or “in my day” or “that’s not music, that’s noise,” or “I’m not up to it” unless you’re being totally ironic.
Have younger and older friends, and try to learn from all of them. I love hanging with all my girls, from my 16 year-old niece to my senior fellow volunteers.
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I had to chuckle when I read this post! I remember my mother long ago disapproving of my jeans because “After all, dear, you are nearly 27.” My usual daily outfit, now that I’m retired and living as I please, usually consists of jeans and an animal rescue tee of one kind or another. Our lives, of course, do change as we grow older, but every day is still a gift, time to enjoy a rose, read a book, save a life, and just enjoy being our real authentic selves.
I like the suggestions you made in this post. My mother was, and is, a very conservative dresser so pretty much everything I wear is NOT something she would have worn. I would like to “go” like your neighbour Jennie – living as full and enjoyable a life as possible, and then die, with no drawn-out illness.
Sherry makes some great points in her comment – how do we enjoy this phase of our life without making comparisons to how our life was (or how our body was) when we were younger?
Dear Patti, I just “found” you today and am going to follow (blog/IG) 🙂 You lifted me up knowing there are others who are doing this 60 + thing with cool style and positive attitudes – especially when I don’t have anyone in my personal circle to draw from. Just wanted to say Thanks! for doing this – and look for me sometime in your Visible Monday!
Hi Patti, such an interesting subject, mainly because I am going to be 68 in a couple of days. I don;t think I’ve ever considered “act my age” because I am still me, no matter what age. Now, that has given me some common sense in that I’m not going to go out in public with my skirt just below my butt (well, at least I’m going to have leggings on!),
I have now outlived my Mom and I learned some hard lessons when she passed away more than 25 years ago. My philosophy is as long as I take care of my physical and mental health, I can do whatever the @#*&^ I want. I’ve made it this far, so I must be doing something right and don’t lecture me on how to live my life. Is that a little strong> Well, in the end, that’s me and how I function. Take care, Patti
Wise words from a wise woman! I think one important thing to help avoid comparing what we do now with how we did it in our youth is to do different things. I know to many “retirement” is a dirty word; it means sitting in a rocking chair doing nothing…. giving up on life. Instead of having the time to explore new things, and the freedom from work responsibility to be able to make my our schedule. Of course age will deny us lots of activities as we move along in life; the key is to replace them with new things to learn and do. Well… that’s my solution anyway:)
I really like your solution, Sue. xox
Thank you for helping 50, 60, 70, 80 plus something women transition to our good years and appreciate the life we have earned!
thank YOU for reading and for your kind words, Laura. xo
Excellent advice Patti. I would add that reading the viewpoints of younger writers ,on a variety of topics keeps you abreast of “other perspectives” to consider.
yes, good point Jude. xo
well, I really am ‘old’, because I’m 70 in 3 months time. However, I chose, many years ago, to not let age define me. I have some clothes from my 27 year old ultra modern grand-daughter, and I do not feel like mutton when I wear them. I update my make-up every year, little tweaks here and there. And I resolutely refuse to do the ‘old’ thing. And I also feel that there is nothing wrong with that. I know that I am not young, but I like to be youthful.
Wonderful approach, R, and I love that you wear your grand-daughter’s clothes when the spirit moves. xo
It is tough to talk about old without also talking about youth–comparing it to youth, for example, or saying “that jacket makes you look so young.” So many people (you included, Patti!) are doing a grand service to aging by demonstrating how amazing life is after a certain age. Your post is so thoughtful and so true. There are even some things on your list I could do better.
My question now is–how do we reclaim this time of life as valuable all on its own without comparing it to being young or referencing youth in relation to getting old, as if youth is the gold standard for life? We have all been young once, so that makes it even more challenging, because we know what we were when we were younger. But as you so eloquently point out, there is so much life to be lived now, at this age and beyond. We need language for that that is solid all on its own.
How would I rephrase “that jacket makes you look so young,” for example? Maybe, you look so vibrant? I don’t know. I’m asking because I want to know! 🙂
And, as you know, I’m with Suzanne on the silly thing. Being silly sometimes just makes life course through my veins.
Wonderful, thoughtful post, Sherry. I don’t pretend to know the “rules” for aging – as you point out it’s a new experience for each of us. I fear I do use my youth as the “gold standard” for certain things: thicker hair, more energy, more ambition. But I think we can make new gold standards in older age: more empathic, less ambitious (heh!), a more generous perspective. Let’s keep talking, xox
That’s right Patti. Aging is a mindset and I want to be like your Jeannie when I’m 90. Enjoy your holiday weekend!
Thank you Neti, and same to you. xo
I read that acting silly or “immature” also helps us to remain mentally young. Too many people focus on “acting their age” when ultimately there is no such thing.
I completely agree. Silly is good for the mind. xo
Your title shouts ageism by negating “old”. We are old. How do we exemplify aging instead of demeaning and fearing it? Not by denying “old”.
Your point is well taken. I know I’m old and I don’t demean or fear it, except in the usual ways. I’m approaching the topic here with “old” in quotes, referring to an outdated, stereotypical view. Thanks for your views, I appreciate the feedback, xo.