At our monthly Elders Lunch (held on zoom the second Friday each month from 12 noon to 1 p.m.), Rev. Sharon shares a reading from the book In Later Years: Finding Meaning and Spirit in Aging by Bruce T. Marshall, a Unitarian Universalist minister. The following are excerpts shared at our February Elders Lunch. The theme of this chapter is “change.”
Many, if not most, of those I talked with said that finding ways to adapt to change is necessary for aging well. (p.47)
Elaine notes the emphasis on youth and popular culture. “You know, 60 is the new, I don’t know, 30 or 40—and it’s ridiculous! We’re older and I think we should accept it….I love it when people—young men, especially—open the door for me, or I go with somebody who is younger, and they take my arm. I used to think, ‘I can do it alone.’ I don’t anymore, and I thank them. So, I think that you give up gracefully, but you don’t have to give up everything. You just take it at a slower pace or you say, ‘Well, I can’t do thus and such, but I can do this.’”
For Elaine, this attitude of acceptance has been freeing, enabling her to remain engaged with life. Paradoxically, accepting the limitations of aging has made it possible for her to stay active. Rather than resisting or trying to deny the losses, she acknowledges them. Then she considers what she can realistically do, and how to make that happen. (p.43)
Throughout our lives, the attitude we take toward life’s changes helps determine who we are. As we reach old age and the changes escalate, our ability to respond creatively becomes a primary factor shaping our ability to negotiate the later years.
Faced with the loss of what had been our place in the world—whether in the workplace or as a parent raising a family—do we find ways to move on into this new phase of life, or do we cling to what has been? Faced with the changes in our appearance that aging brings, do we adapt, or do we struggle to maintain the look that had been ours? Faced with the loss of people who had been central to us, do we reach out to form new relationships, or do we hang on to memories of what was? Faced with the decline in our physical capacities, do we withdraw into comfortable spaces, or do we adapt as necessary to stay involved in the activities of our community? Faced with the diminishment of our skills and our stamina, do we find ways to continue learning and developing skills in different realms? (p.38)
I find my truest guides are those who ride the changes lightly: accept them gracefully and make adaptations. They seek what is available and possible in the new reality they encounter each day of their lives.
I am reminded of how I learned to ride a roller coaster. My friend in the sixth grade, Jimmy, advised me to hold tight and scream. It didn’t work. All that grasping and screaming made me even more tense. My muscles ached, and my throat hurt. A better strategy was to relax into it. Accept that I was being taken for a ride that I did not control. Bend and adapt. (pp.50-51)