Aging is defined as “the accumulation of changes in an organism or object over time.” In human beings the aging process refers to physical, psychological, and social changes that are occurring as we get older. Some of these factors will grow over time, while others will decline. Our knowledge of world events and general wisdom may expand while on the other hand, our reaction times may get slower. However, research has proven that there is still the potential of mental, physical, and social growth (as well as development) at a later stage in our lives.
The term “aging” is oftentimes relegated to ambiguity in that it can be used to denote universalaging or probabilistic aging. Universal aging refers to those changes that are common to all of us while we are aging. Probabilistic ageing generally refers to those changes that occur in some of us but is not common among all of us. As an example, some people develop Type II Diabetes while others don’t.
Aging may also be broken down between chronological,social, or biological ageing with chronological aging being the most straightforward definition of the term. Social aging generally refers to the way we act or behave as we grow older, whereas biological aging refers to the physical state of a person (or organism) upon growing older.
On a more technical note, there is also distal or proximal aging as well. Distal aging is used to refer to age-based differences that are traced back to physically altering events in a person’s life, such as polio. Proximal aging refers to age-based differences resulting from some event in the recent past. So as you can see, the term aging has become very ambiguous over time.
For all practical purposes, aging is one of those natural, if not sometimes harsh realities that we will all encounter in our lifetimes. How we handle the process, on the other hand, is another story. One can look at the aging process (somewhat aesthetically) as getting older versus growing older. Despite the fact that science and medicine have come up with a plethora of techniques and products to “hide” the aging process, we still need to realize that time marches on and that you cannot turn back the clock. So how do we differentiate between getting older and growing older?
When you are getting older, it simply means chronologically, or with age. With every second that passes, you are getting older and there is no altering that process. You can have all the face lifts you want or use all the anti-aging creams that you can get your hands on in order to hide the fact that you are getting older, but the harsh reality is that you’ll never be able to alter your age in numbers of hide it physically.
Where getting older takes on a more physical connotation, growing older is relative to mental aging or the level of maturity in which we handle getting older. It’s not only a mentality, it’s an attitude. Ever heard the expression “you’re only as old as you feel”? This is what it refers to — your ability to cope with the aging process from a mental or maturity level, hence the birth of the expression.
Pursuing proper learning regarding this avails us with the ability to cope with the aging process. Maturity relates to certain abilities in a person’s life. Appreciating the simpler things in life, seeing the positive in things rather than the negative, and learning how to interact with others as well as understanding their situation is all a part of the maturity process. But the bottom line is coping and preparing.
Having the proper attitude about getting or growing older, and knowing the difference is what will make the process easier to deal with. Resisting from a physical standpoint will only get more frustrating for you as time passes. The best attitude is to make the best of it and attempt to grow older as gracefully as possible.
David R. Michaels