Aging does not start at some predestined time like retirement. Aging is lifelong. It begins at conception and does not end until the body dies. Every moment we are alive we are aging.
So often we fall into old age. We wake up one morning at age 40, 60 or 80 and look in the mirror and exclaim, “How did I get to be this age? Where did all the time go?” Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky proclaimed that “old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man.” Similarly, American columnist Ann Landers said, “Inside every seventy-five-year-old is a thirty-year-old asking, ‘What happened?’”
Many people are unprepared for the health decline that happens with age. They may not think about it until they are faced with a catastrophic event, like a fall. Or perhaps their eyesight fails and it becomes difficult to drive, but they have not considered how they are going to remain active and get around.
If we learn to be mindful about our aging process, we can deliberately plan for what the next stages will bring. Dr. Andrea Brandt defines mindful aging as, “accepting and embracing the changes that come with getting older. It means appreciating and making the most of the years you have left to live.” She further describes aging mindfully as opening your eyes to reality, controlling what you can and accepting what you cannot control.
To age mindfully will bring you to face to face with yourself, your body and your current life situation. Mindfulness does not tolerate deception. It embraces reality. It is not a path for those who want to hide. Aging mindfully is a warrior’s path for those that want to face life right here and right now. The rewards are great, for the present is the place where time stands still.
Deb Trygstad, M.S. lives in Erhard, Minnesota.