Re-thinking Your Age in a Youth-Oriented Culture
by Roger Reid
Sixty may be the new forty, but conventional assumptions and cultural bias about aging can still undermine your career, your professional relationships, and even the way strangers interact with you. The best way to protect your personal power and maintain your professional influence as you get older? Be proactive in maintaining your life skills, health, and mental acuity to insure others perceive your age as an asset instead of a liability.
First, let’s face the facts.
Aging is an irrefutable fact of life: We get older. We change. And in our youth-driven, appearance-prized culture, it can leave us doubting our value and remembering our past as a more rewarding time, when our very presence had more impact and influence on everything and everyone around us.
And that’s sad. Because the gains that come with age and experience can easily outweigh the often superficial values of youth.
Like anything of substantial merit, the rewards of getting older must be cultivated if they are to bring us maximum benefit.
Here are several suggestions that, regardless of whether you’re 40 or 80, can bring new insight, perspective, and earn you the respect of others – regardless of your age.
Re-inventory your personal assets. As we age, the tools we use to effect influence over others must change. Youth and attractive features are often replaced with wisdom and personality. While you may have been popular on campus 30 years ago, or been elected senior prom queen or king, those sources of recognition are long past. Others may now seek you out because of your talent in music, art, or writing. Or maybe you have influence due to your abilities in business or organization, public speaking, teaching, or your knowledge of government, automobiles, or construction.
The idea is to foster the abilities you have acquired and keep them sharp. Take pride in your accomplishments and the fact that you’re the person others call on when they need advice in your particular field.
Travel. While there are always the more popular tourist-oriented choices depicted on travel posters and websites, don’t forgo seeing the less-traveled third world countries. Seeing how others cope with severe adversity and over-whelming challenges, and yet find ways to live a happy, productive life, can be a life-changing experience. There are places of incredible beauty that can amaze the senses and feed the soul. Don’t miss out on seeing as much of the world as you can – while you can.
“Those who never leave their country of birth seldom develop an appreciation for other cultures—or a respect for other opinions.” Albert Einstein
Learn something new. Especially something that has always piqued your interest. Learning keeps the mind active and prompts it to maintain specific sensory connections that can prevent the onset of memory and vocabulary loss. “Senior moments” are the result of a mind that needs exercise. Learn a new language, take piano or guitar lessons, sing in the church choir, or take adult classes at a community college. There’s always something new and interesting to learn.
Stay (or get) active. You don’t need to run a marathon (unless that’s what you want to do), but you should try to find some sport or activity in which you can safely participate. The mind-body connection is now a proven medical fact, and doing some kind of regular exercise will help keep you mentally alert, dispel depression, and give you a greater sense of well-being. While there’s always the old regimented routine of calisthenics, many people enjoy yoga, soft-style martial arts, swimming, bike riding, and various kinds of organized classes specific to their interests and abilities.
Set boundaries. Set them between yourself and those who bring you down, are negative, or need to harm others to feel good about themselves. You don’t need them in your life.
Go your own way. Live life by your standards. Adopt other people’s lifestyles, dictates, and doctrines only if they’re right for you. You’ve earned the right to call your own shots. Live where you want, see who you want, and spend your time in ways that are satisfying. As long as your choices don’t hurt others, you have the right to explore the opportunities of a lifetime.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” Henry Thoreau