Older & Wiser - Celebrating Older Americans Month

May is the official ‘Older Americans Month,’ which provides us with the unique opportunity to celebrate the privilege of aging! Now we know that the thought of adding more candles to your birthday cake may bring a harmonious groan, but at For Papa’s Sake, we believe the process of aging is something we can celebrate.
With each passing birthday, we should celebrate with fun and enthusiasm rather than consternation. Why? Aging has the potential to bring out new personalities, opportunities, and ultimately give people the chance to enjoy life in new ways.
Here are just a few ways that aging can be a positive experience:
• The older the wiser – Scientists used to believe that we lose brain cells as we age, but recent research says otherwise. In a 2007 study, experts found that we hit our cognitive peak between the ages of 40 and 68. Not to mention, with all of those years under your belt, you’re bound to have gained many experiences, learned from mistakes, and acquired more life skills than your younger counterparts. This combination of cognitive acuity and life wisdom allows you to see the world through a unique lens. In fact, in a 2010 study, researchers at the University of Michigan found that subjects in their 60’s were better than younger ones at imagining different points of view, thinking of multiple resolutions to problems, and suggesting compromises.
• Emotional control –Now more than ever, you have the ability to control what parts of your life are worthy of your emotional energy. Things that once got your gears grinding and steam pouring from your ears, you’ve learned to ignore. This ability to control your emotions allows you to seek and experience more happy and pleasurable life experiences, more so than any other time in your life. This may be news to people who associate growing old with being sad and alone, but it coincides with research by Laura Carstensen, a Stanford psychologist. She conducted a study that followed people ages 18 to 94 for a decade and found that they got happier and their emotions bounced around less as they aged. Similar studies also show that sadness, anger, and fear become less pronounced as we age.
• Clearer Priorities – Once you’re over the hill, most of your major life questions have been answered. Will I find the right partner? Will I have children? Will I have a successful career? That constant sense of anxiety and worry, characteristic of younger years, about what’s coming next and things that are out of your control has subdued. By old age, you’ve crossed most of these hurdles and can find peace in your life’s path. Therefore, you are able to differentiate what issues in your life are relevant. With your priorities well developed, you can enjoy life with a calm and anxiety-free mindset.
• Time on our hands – Lucky for you, after retirement you have all sorts of time on your hands. At first that may seem intimidating, but once you settle in to this new lifestyle, you may be able to see that this is a unique opportunity never before available in your life. You now have the time in your life to cross off that bucket list destination, take up a hobby you’ve always had an interest in, or spend copious amounts of time with friends and family. You’ve accumulated the money to do what you want and the wisdom to realize what’s important. Now you finally have the time to use those tools to enjoy this stage in your life!
• Financial sense – Unlike the youth that flock to money, older adults have come to learn that money is not everything. Instead, financial smarts gained from past mistakes allows you to better manage your money. Whether you spend your money on time with the grandkids, or on trips to new destinations, you know the value of the dollar and can appreciate it when spending it.
• You’re full of stories – The good thing about getting older is that you’ve seen it all, lived it all, felt it all — and now you can take a moment to share what you’ve learned. Not only do you have more stories to tell, but all of those life experiences you’ve accumulated make you better equipped to have fun, interact, and relate to people of all ages. This aptitude to share often gives you a feeling of energy and vitality, not to mention you’re the most valuable person to have around a campfire for story time!
• Social control - Getting older does not mean that your social life suffers. Instead, aging allows you the opportunity to slow down and choose where you spend your time. Gone are the days of go, go, go. Now, you get to take a few moments and find peace by tossing out unpleasant obligations. For the first time, you have the choice to say you’re not feeling up for whatever boring social obligations come your way, while having more time to spend with family and people most important to you .

All in all, aging is a process, and not something everyone is able to experience. It is a journey that can be a great adventure on a good day, and a bad leg of a trip on a bad day. It is a real, natural process and those of us who get to live into later years are fortunate to have the opportunity.
Therefore, let’s take this month of May to refute the concept that aging is bad, and instead value and celebrate the chance to grow old!

Sources:
http://www.neurology.org/content/68/9/648
http://www.pnas.org/content/107/16/7246.full
https://www.ted.com/talks/laura_carstensen_older_people_are_happier