Oct 28

5 Secrets to Transform Your Experience of Aging

By Ed Merck from NextAvenue.org

My 15-year-old son Evan walked off the tennis court triumphantly, as if he had just won the U.S. Open. Up to that point, our matches had always ended in a tie: I made sure of that or, rather, I could make sure of that.

Now, toweling off while feeling an unfamiliar tug on my heart, I said to him, “Hey, Ev, did you ever wonder why the score always remained the same in our tennis matches over the years?” Then, in a suggestive whisper, I continued: “Maybe you could continue that trend — gracefully?” He didn’t respond, but I knew his answer. And it was deafening.

Walking back to the car, I was consumed by the thought that my relationship with Evan (and with my life generally) was clearly at a crossroads. Staying positive as I aged would require letting go of capacities that were diminishing and embracing ones that were expanding.

(MORE: Free E-Book: The Aging Well Revolution)

Easy transition? No! Gratifying? Mostly!

Here are five secrets I’ve learned along the way that helped turn my experience of aging from a sense of loss into a sense of gain:

1. Learn to accept what is. There is no end to the expanding benefits of embracing life on its own terms. If I hadn’t accepted my inevitable decline in physical acuity — the awareness of which began on the tennis court that day — it would have led to nothing but suffering. Instead, by refocusing my attention on supporting, even celebrating, my son’s physical ascension from boy to early manhood, I was able to walk away from “defeat” feeling relatively good.

This mindset shift allowed me to interpret the situation, and many others that have followed, as a smooth, downhill coast, rather than a long, uphill trudge. It really is as simple, and as difficult, as just accepting what is.

2. Engage risk. Complacency is the enemy of feeling alive and vibrant. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to unknowingly slide into what is safe and familiar, especially as we age.

(MORE: Finding Meaning and Purpose in Later Life)

Risk (and its kissing cousin, change) is the counterbalance, and must be willingly embraced or we wither on the vine. Make a commitment to move into something new that has an edge for you.

At 63, after divesting from my successful software business, I sold my house, moved out of my community, bought an ocean-going sailboat and with no destination in mind, began sailing up and down the east coast of America. Along the way, I experienced fiery romantic trails, a deepening bond with my son, emerging spiritual insights and the blaze of self-transformation.

Was it tough at times? You bet! Today, however, at 68, I feel alive and ten years younger. (That journey towards wholeness is captured in my recent memoir, Sailing the Mystery.)

3. Settle into your body and open your heart. Most of us spend years in the workplace perfecting our strategic minds, and essentially living in the future. But engaging ourselves with vitality and gusto in the years after working full-time requires that we more fully occupy our bodies and hearts, which root us in the present moment — the only place where we can feel truly connected to our life experience.

(MORE: Secrets From the Island Where People Forget to Die)

To practice, try engaging anything that is sensation-oriented such as exercise, sex, or even falling in love — and not just with another person, but with life itself.

My mother’s end of life was filled with fear, and drawn out over many years. At first I tried to mitigate her pain using talking strategies, which only exacerbated the frustration for both of us. Then, when in her presence, I began working on just breathing deeply and moving more into my heart. Overnight, the connection between us changed; we grew closer, her trust of me increased and I experienced again the heartfelt juice of our mother/son relationship. Most noticeably, her suffering — and mine — decreased.

4. Practice equanimity. Many spiritual paths embrace the state of equanimity as their end point; that blissful place of being engaged without reactivity. Muting our temptation to be judgmental (“I am right, she is wrong.”) is key. Try dropping fully into the moment with as much empathy as is available to you — over and over again.

Several weeks ago, my friend Jason went a week without answering my increasingly urgent texts. At first I took his silence personally, which made me feel uncomfortable. Then, a moment of grace occurred: I dropped into my heart and wondered if he was okay. Rather than projecting more negative scenarios, I placed a call to a mutual friend, only to find out that Jason’s phone had died a week ago.

5. Soften the edges of your identity. To paraphrase Carl Jung, we spend the first half of our lives building up a sense of “I” and the second half tearing it down. Inflexible trees snap in the wind. The more we protect who we think we are in the face of major life changes, the more we’re at odds with the natural flow.

So, let go, loosen up and don’t take yourself too seriously while learning to open yourself to the new you that emerges in every moment.

I was able to do that on the tennis court many years ago. Ever since, it has become the ultimate win/win for both Evan and me.
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Oct 17

Fashion and Aging

Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/fashion-and-aging/

Sep 24

Healthier Aging – Inside and Out

Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/healthier-aging-inside-and-out/

Aug 22

Talking about Age in the Media

From DailyWritingTips.com

Posted: 20 Aug 2014 09:22 PM PDT

Everyone wants to live longer, but no one wants to be old. –Harry Moody, director of academic affairs for AARP (2012).

To me – old age is always ten years older than I am. –Bernard Baruch, American financier (1870-1965).

About forty-two million Americans are 65 years or older. Advertisers, politicians, and researchers often need to refer to this group, but finding a term that will not insult its members is not easy.

Various terms have been suggested with varying degrees of success. Elderelderlysenior, and retiree are the most common.

In Canada, according to what I’ve read in forums, the term elder has connotations of venerable age and wisdom; in the United States, however, people tend to associate elder with disapproving church elders or the word elderly. The decline of the acceptability of the word elder is illustrated by the name change of a travel organization established in 1975 for active Americans 60 and older. The parent organization is still calledElderhostel, but in advertising, the program is now known agelessly as “Road Scholar.”

Even the word retiree is heavy with the connotations of age. These days, the American Association of Retired People (founded 1958) goes by its initials only: AARP.

When politicians talk about “our seniors” in the same breath as “our children,” mature adults understandably bristle.

An article in The Senior Times says that the term “senior citizen” was coined in 1938 during a political campaign. Its use soars on the Ngram Viewer beginning in the 1940s. According to National Public Radio reporter Ina Jaffe, “senior citizen” is a term that “seems to annoy just about everyone.”

Recognizing the minefield of age and terms relating to it, The AP Stylebook has this entry for the word elderly:

Use this word carefully and sparingly. Do not refer to a person as elderly unless it is clearly relevant to the story. It is appropriate in generic phrases that do not refer to specific individuals: concern for the elderlya home for the elderly, etc.

If the intent is to show that an individual’s faculties have deteriorated, cite a graphic example and give attribution for it. Use age when available and appropriate.

Apply the same principle to terms such as senior citizen.

Age is one of the realities of life that our culture prefers to deny. It’s unlikely that any term can be found to refer to old people that would not be offensive to someone because in our culture, old age itself is seen as offensive.

Perhaps the safest course is to refer to the intended age group in numeric terms:
between the ages of 65 and 75
above the age of 65

Colloquial synonyms for “old person” range from friendly to deliberately hurtful, for example:

Although the word codger (like coot) usually has a negative connotation, this review about Dick Van Dyke in the Chicago Tribune (1992) makes a kind of compliment of it:

The wonderfully funny Dick Van Dyke, insufficiently honored in his prime, has now passed into the lovable-old-codger stage.

His comic gifts are sharper than ever, and he still dances with grace, style and a naughty insouciance. He is much too good for the quirky-old-coot roles that are his lot nowadays.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/talking-about-age-in-the-media/

Aug 21

Spirituality is key to happiness, older folks say

Counting your blessings can bring more joy than counting your money, according to a new survey.

Results from the 2014 United States of Aging survey shows adults 60 and older are generally satisfied with their lives and optimistic about the future. The survey, sponsored by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the National Council on Aging, United Healthcare and USA Today, has been taken annually since 2012.

Compared to last year’s survey, older adults are more confident about their financial situation, but when asked the key to keeping a positive outlook on life, money was a distant 10th on the list.

“The No. 1 answer was spirituality,” says Rhonda Randall, a gerontologist and chief medical officer for United Healthcare Retiree Solutions. In fact, 25 percent of adults 60 and older said “faith or spirituality” was the key to happiness, followed by “a loving family” (15 percent) and “a positive attitude” (14 percent). Only 5 percent said “being financially secure” was the most important factor.

Perhaps the best news in the survey is older adults are getting serious about improving their health and eating habits. About 37 percent said they exercise at least 30 minutes every day compared to 26 percent in the 2013 survey.

But while actually exercising and eating well are important for physical health, simply making plans to ramp up activity and nutrition appears to have benefits for emotional health. Those seniors who said they set health goals were more than twice as likely to think their quality of life will improve and three times as likely to believe their health will get better.

“Just the act of setting a goal for your health has a positive effect,” Randall says. “There’s a degree of optimism that comes with setting the goal and believing that you can achieve the goal you set.”

This year’s survey also showed seniors feeling less pessimistic. For example, 22 percent said the current year was the worst in their lives or worse than normal.

A year ago, 24 percent said 2013 was worst ever/worse than normal. And in the 2012 survey, as seniors were still recovering from the Great Recession, 34 percent said that year was the worst ever/worse than normal.

As for their biggest worry, the No. 1 choice was “not being able to take care of myself” (16 percent), followed by “losing my memory” (14 percent) and “being a burden” (9 percent).

For the complete survey, go to nwsdy.li/agingsurvey.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/spirituality-is-key-to-happiness-older-folks-say/

Aug 05

Conscious Aging audio

I spoke this past week at the Manatee Center for Spiritual Living.
Go here to hear the talk I gave on Conscious Aging.
Just before I spoke, we played the song I’m Here to Remind You (Youtube version here)

Go here now to listen:



The closing song can also be found on YouTube  I Hope You Dance

Permanent link to this article: http://www.midlifemessages.com/conscious-aging-audio/

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