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Getting Over Getting Older

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve associated aging with physical and mental decline, depression, illness, and isolation. Not shockingly, I have amassed plenty of evidence to support this not-so-fabulous belief system. Most impactfully, when my father turned seventy he fell into a severe depression. He was one of the most robust, energetic, vital people I have ever known, and watching him lose his will to live only intensified my fear of growing old.

As I write this, just after my 45th birthday, I’ve decided that the best gift I can give myself is to transform and improve my relationship with getting older. Shockingly (or not!) when I googled “how to improve your relationship with aging,” all that came up was how to care for your elders or your aging partner. When I googled “how to feel better about aging” I was hit with ads for anti-aging creams, filler, and Botox. Deep sigh. I realized it was up to me to do the research and write the article I wanted to read myself.

Clearly this is a complicated and loaded topic, and one I am just starting to explore, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

relationship with aging

Shift the Narrative

I don’t know about you, but it’s very easy for my brain to come up with reasons to dread aging. So today, for the first time, I wrote down some of the benefits of getting older:

  • I take better care of my mind and body
  • I’m more confident
  • I take bigger risks
  • I ask for what I’m worth
  • I’m less preoccupied with what other people think of me

I was shocked at how many I came up with in just a few minutes. Try it for yourself by filling in the blank: “The great thing about getting older is…”

Ask Better Questions

To get better answers you have to ask better questions. Here are some I’ve been asking myself:

  • What might improve in my life as I get older?
  • What am I looking forward to?
  • What do I still want to do, see, learn, and explore?
  • How can I contribute more?
  • What kind of role model do I want to be for my daughters?

Redefine Your Beauty Ideals

In our youth obsessed culture women still seem to disappear as they get older. Movies, magazines, and even social media feeds continue to almost exclusively featuring the young. Thankfully, I’ve discovered some trailblazers who are working to promote healthy, authentic, and beautiful images of older women. Just one example is the book And Bloom: The Art of Aging Unapologetically, which shares portraits and interviews of more than 100 women from 40 – 100 years old who are embracing their natural beauty, wisdom, vitality, and power. Author Denise Boomkens also shares stunning portraits of women over forty on her popular Instagram feed. I also discovered the work of Ari Seth Cohen, creator of Advanced Style, a project devoted to capturing the sartorial savvy of the senior set. You can check out Ari’s book, documentary, and photography right here.

When there are so many voices telling us we need to slow or halt the aging process, it’s so refreshing to identify people who are claiming, sharing and celebrating aging. More of this, please!

Look for New Role Models

In my quest to find new role models and inspiration I realized that while they may not be found in the magazines I read or the shows I watch, they are all around me. My own mother fully embraced her love of writing in her mid-seventies, and is now getting her exquisite poetry published. My god-mother, Judith, continues to teach, write, and travel in her late eighties. My mother-in-law, Susan, survived lung cancer, reads voraciously, and has the most active social life of anyone I know. My colleague, Ellen, just launched an online program designed to demystify menopause and help women feel more empowered throughout the aging process. My bonus mother-in-law, Patricia, launched a business in her seventies called The Third Act, focused on helping women to reinvent their lives in retirement. My great-great uncle Norman, who just died peacefully at 105,  gardened and rode on his tractor until the very end!! Need a new role model for a new season in your life? Just look around you – they’re everywhere.

Read All About It

A few book recs that I plan to check out: The first is by Louise Aronson, MD, UCSF Gerontologist, called Elderhood, which has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. The second comes out this week – The Inside Story: The Surprising Pleasures of Living in an Aging Body, by Dr. Susan Sands. “This book is not about trying to look fifty when you’re seventy or thirty when you’re fifty,” writes Dr. Sands, “It’s about forging a healthier relation­ship with your actual maturing body―a relationship of respect, appreciation, tenderness, and yes, even love.”

At the end of the day, aging is a privilege that not everyone gets to experience. To be here, healthy, alive, and still have years ahead of me to watch my kids grown up, form new relationships, create, learn, and explore – what a tremendous gift.

I’d love to know: Have you discovered positive influences, role models, resources, or inspiration on the topic of aging? Maybe you’ve discovered your own insight or wisdom? Please share in the comments below.

Photography Credit: Jonahs Bie

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59 comments on “Getting Over Getting Older

  1. I just turned 60 in Feb. I never had issues with other milestone birthdays that are often a concern for people. I do find I work in a field where the pursuit of youth is present (in the field of Aesthetics for 33 years) so trying to think about next chapter of career while embracing looking and feeling the best I can. I appreciate this feature and the questions you posted. Happy Belated to you!

  2. I love this post so much Shira thank you! So many great resources and I love the questions and your approach to aging.

    Ellen’s Mastering Menopause program really helped me prepare for when the time comes.

  3. Wow — so very impressed that you are beginning to tackle this bittersweet issue! I may be one of the few 72 year-olds who subscribe to your blog and have purchased your book, but I am so glad because I find your honest energy contagious! I must admit, however, I am still far from being a minimalista — I have decades of great things I am trying to distribute! Now, as to the issue of aging — you are absolutely on point here – surround yourself with positive role models. Embrace projects and goals that make you want to jump out of bed in the morning. Mentor the young with your wisdom and listen to the sage guidance of your elders. Eat well, smile alot, and realize that ultimately we are only what we can add to this world! Hoping for more exploration on this topic soon.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your truly eloquent words. “Embrace projects and goals that make you want to jump out of bed in the morning” I LOVE THIS! Xx

    2. Nope, you’re not the only 72 year old who follow this blog! I’ll be 73 next month and I am more and more reflecting upon how lucky I am to be here! I still have a young spirit and that’s at least half the battle! I have fairly recently become at peace with my increased wrinkles—why fight it? That would only crush my spirit. I’m still an attractive woman. I plan to continue to “age gracefully.” Thank you for thinking of us!

    3. I’m another 72 year old and I truly embrace what I’ve learned along the way including repairing relationships with my family and loving who I am. I’m astonished I’ve gotten here as my inner age is 34 (used to be 32 until I turned 70!). Looking forward to my next chapter.

  4. Love this article! May I add the book Dynamic Aging by Katie Bowman to the list? She is a biomechanic (the mechanics of our bodies) If we use and move our bodies correctly we can avoid a lot of the pain, slowing down and surgeries associated with aging.

  5. Thank you so much for recognizing us, the invisible! But…we’re only invisible if we let that happen. At 66 I realize I have so much still to give to my family, my friends, my community. Sharing life and living it large is the key to aging well. Yes, there will be hurdles, but staying mentally and physically buoyant will facing challenges is absolutely imperative.

    1. Agreed! In a culture that starts ignoring women after a certain age it’s up to us to live life louder than ever. Thank you for sharing! Xx

  6. Yesterday I listened to a song called Silver by the Secret Sisters and was struck by by the homage to age because it is so rare… this is an important topic.. thank you for bringing it forward especially given your personal context

    1. It is so rare to pay tribute to aging in our youth obsessed culture but hopefully we can work to shift the narrative! Xx

  7. Beautiful! Love that you were able to shift your mindset and source your feelings about aging. I’m sad for you observing what your Dad went thru. The great thing is you realized you are not your Dad. 🤍
    I’m 57. No one believes me when I share my age very openly. I feel like me, and I look really different. My body looks like someone else’s body. I approach it with humor. I honor the challenges I’ve survived and the wisdom I’ve gained. I share my lessons with all. I feel the very best part of getting older is the wisdom we gain. I focus on my worth and truly believe in it. I have a very long bucket list and fully intend on checking those boxes. I’m present and remind myself to stay in the day in this unsettled world.
    Aging is a privilege. You realize this in the next ten or so years when people closer to your age begin dying.
    Honor how far you’ve come. It’s so important. Breathe deeper. Use your five senses to experience life every day. Laugh a lot. Give yourself grace. These are just some of my commandments. 🤍

  8. Thank you for exploring how to age well! I am 51 and this topic is front of mind for me right now. I will add one other book that might interest you… “This Chair Rocks” by Ashton Applewhite. I listened to a great podcast with with the author (We Can Do Hard Things – Pro Aging Party episode). It helped me to correct some of the negative images of aging that I carry as well. Thanks for opening the conversation about aging and I look forward to checking out the resources you recommend in the article.

  9. Shira: Love this article! So true. I read this book by Lisa Congdon: “A Glorious Freedom: Older Women living Extraordinary Lives.” It’s all about women who have started doing something later in life that is truly inspiring. Thank you so much for writing this. I can think of another aspect that you might be really able to help, and that is getting older and letting go of physical stuff. There are so many older folks that I know of that say they want to do it, but it has become too much for them. Best, L.

  10. This was such a great piece! I am 52 and finally beginning to realize that it is important to think about aging not only “gracefully”, but with more thought and intention. The questions you listed are inspiring. I have two young adult daughters, and I would like to set a positive example. Thank you!!

    1. Yes, setting a positive example for my daughters is a huge motivator when it comes to aging with intention! Xx

  11. I’ve learned it is valuable to have friends who are a decade younger and older than me! I joined a local woman’s club as a way of keeping up with other newly empty-nest friends I made during the child-raising and school volunteering days. What I did not expect was to enjoy the friendships created with club members in their 60s, 70s and 80s! These multi-generational friendships are modeling graceful aging for me and provide a map of ways to be a parent to an adult child, to be a mother-in-law and a grandmother. The different perspectives are eye-opening! On the flip side, having younger friends keeps me from becoming stuck in my ways of thinking!

  12. OMG, Shira! Thank you so much for this! I just had my 79th birthday a week ago and have been struggling with this very thing. It doesn’t help that death is often on my mind, and my friends “of an age” say the same thing. On the other hand, despite warnings from AARP, I can still run around all day in flipflops and I’m leaving on a Storm Chasing Tour in the Heartland (Tornado Alley) in a week, so it ain’t all bad! But believe me, I’m going to check out all the leads you included in your post. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  13. Yes!! My Avon lady is 75 years old and she’s the lead singer for a local band. They are booked throughout this year at restaurants, breweries, art centers and more. I love to tell her what an inspiration she is to me and she has told me she never dreamed she’d be having so much fun at this stage of her life!

  14. Also, I forgot to mention, I recommend weareageist on instagram for anyone interested in aging with vitality content.💕

  15. Thank you for this post. As a 66 year old, I’ve been investigating aging gracefully for several years. I intend to check out your recommendations. Here are a few I’ve found and loved. On Instagram – Silverdisobedience and iconaccidental. Dr. Frank Lipman has written a fantastic book, The New Rules of Aging Well. And yes, you should start taking care of yourself now! Don’t wait, however, it’s never too late.

  16. At age 76, I’m still working full-time in my career and am enjoying aging so far, although I know the process will turn on me at some point. I’m not sure how intentional you can really be because the physical side of things is largely out of your control, no matter what your attitude is. No plans, just taking it one day at a time.

  17. YES – 1000% YES!! Absolutely LOVE this post, especially your points (benefits of getting older) in the Shift the Narrative section. Our bodies may develop a little wear and tear on them as we age, but my goodness, just think of the storms they’ve weathered, the mountains they’ve climbed, and the challenges they’ve conquered. Hard-earned wisdom comes with a price (wrinkles, gray hairs, etc.) but I wouldn’t trade the confidence and serenity I’ve gained as I’ve aged for anything. There is only one alternative to getting older (dying young), so I join you in celebrating and giving thanks for the privilege of aging. PS – I’m almost 53 and am running my first marathon (26.2 miles) in two weeks!

  18. I will be turning 45 at the end of May, I needed this article. My mom likes to age, she says that it means that she is around to see her grandchildren get bigger and older. She is right, getting old is a privilege and we should be thankful for it.

  19. A great article- I recently turned 53 and was shocked when my MIL told me I’m not old. It never even crossed my mind that I was old. Apparently my SIL who is a few weeks younger than me is bemoaning her age. I left my job 18 months ago and I’m still waiting for inspiration to strike with what “I” want to do with my life! I ride a mountain bike, lift weights and do Pilates and have been sporting my natural hair colour for a few years now but I don’t feel old.

  20. Thanks for some great links! I am so up for hearing about all the great things we can and will do as we get older. I want to keep looking forward to adventures, not backwards!!

    Jane🌼

  21. Thank you Shira! This post was so great. Love your work. I’m excited to look into the resources you cited.

  22. Thank you for this timely article! I always need a reminder of the benefits of getting older around this time every year as I will turn 69 next month. I feel great and have time to research and do projects that I could not have imagined a few years ago. I think that keeping one’s mind active and always learning is so important. I’m also trying to gradually downsize so that my adult children will have less to deal with. I look forward to reading the books your readers have recommended 📚

  23. I attend exercise classes at our local senior center with about 20-25 other women. Our aerobics instructor is 85 and quite the inspiration. The women who spend time there are funny and kind and energetic and interested and interesting!

  24. Thank you for this. It’s a constant struggle to let it happen naturally. I’ve been working on my mindset and trying to overcome my own insecurities about growing older. I’m turning 54 in July…

  25. Thank you! This post and your positivity was just what I needed! I’m turning 44 this year and have been thinking a lot about aging and what I want from life. I loved your list of benefits. For me, the best thing about aging so far has been deepening my friendships and getting better at owning who I am and being straight with people about what I want or need. It has been empowering but I hope to cultivate this further as I age. Looking forward to to exploring some of these great recommendations from you and the others, and to meeting you at the book signing this weekend!

  26. I love this article. I’m 53 years old and am much healthier mentally and physically then I was 20 years ago. I have my own style and feel confident and comfortable being me.

  27. This was such a breathe of fresh air to read today! And several resources I immediately jumped over to and eager to explore. Always appreciate your voice.

  28. Great topic. Aging is a gift. The other option is pretty finite, so embrace what you have and what you are given. My aunt battled valiantly with breast cancer and she said she would have loved to get old. She didn’t get that option.

  29. I heard Peter Attia on a podcast last year (maybe Tim Ferris?) talking about the Centenarian Olympics, the idea that we need to literally train for everyday activities (say lifting a suitcase above our heads) like they are a sport, rather than cross our fingers and hope we can continue to do them. It got me thinking about how I can prepare to do all the things I want to keep doing (including travel!) as I age. My great aunt lived to be 100 (and painted until the last years of her life). She climbed three flights of stairs every time she left the house because she lived at the bottom of a cove in Pacifica–she’s my north star for aging inspo!

  30. Shira, I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this as I’m approaching another birthday. I love how you included other books and sites to explore. xo

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