Let the Myths of Aging Hold You Back
Furlong, Motivational Gerontologist
Thanks to medical advances, we in the baby boom generation have
been given an additional 20 years of life.
Unfortunately, many of us see latter life as a period of
limitations and decline because that is what it represented for many of
our parents and grandparents. This picture of latter life is perpetuated
by a number of myths and distorted perceptions of older people.
While it is true that as we age we do lose physical strength,
become more susceptible to disease, and can lose mental sharpness, these
outcomes can be greatly mitigated. Indeed, with the right approaches to
life style, diet, exercise, nutritional supplementation, and mental
activity, we can be mentally and physically healthy and productive well
into our nineties and older!!!!. And, while providing our generation
with Social Security and Medicare benefits poses a great challenge to
our economic system, the potential contribution we can make to the
economy, the culture, and the institutions of America far outweigh the
potential cost society will incur on our behalf.
To make the most of these additional years of life, we must first
develop a vision of what the latter third of life will be for us
personally. To do this most
effectively, we must first get real with ourselves and then with
everyone else who has expectations of us including our children,
spouses, employers, clergy, doctors, and so on.
We have to understand the myths of aging and reject the
limitations they put on us so that we can see the possibilities and
begin to develop a vision that comes from our heart and soul.
The most important thing is that the vision is truly ours and
that it truly represents who we are as we have evolved over the years.
The vision can be as simple and pleasurable as spending most of
our time relaxing with family and friends. Or it can be a vision that
includes starting a new business, a non-profit, or getting physically
fit. It can include
reconciliation, spiritual renewal, or furthering our education.
It can be a combination of any number of different elements.
When we develop our personal vision for this stage of life, we
must remember that there are
no self-imposed, family-imposed, or society-imposed “shoulds” to
limit our creative processes.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of role models or aids to help
us develop the vision for this period of our lives. Indeed, most of our
parents and grandparents did not have the opportunity to really create a
vision for this stage of life for themselves.
The accepted model of the life course and the myths of aging
really created it for them. Moreover,
most self-help books and motivational seminars are geared for younger
individuals trying to make personal changes or create a model for
success in mid-life. Exacerbating this problem for us is the structural
lag between the rapid changes an aging society creates and the ability
of our institutions to accommodate these changes.
As a consequence, those of us on the leading edge of the baby
boom will once again have the opportunity to break new ground for the
rest of the generation and the generations that follow. Non-conformists
in our youth, most of us turned conformists in our middle years.
Now we must decide individually and collectively whether to
conform to the myths of aging in this stage of our journey or create a
new paradigm that embraces all possibilities and is totally
self-created, totally individualistic, and totally satisfying.
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