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Aging Gracefully: Enjoy A Vital, Fulfilling Life Regardless Of Age

A quick web search on the term "graceful aging" brings up phrases like:

Combat the signs of aging
Who said that we have to age?
Defy the aging process

These phrases reflect the fact that most of us look at aging as something to be resisted for as long as possible. Regardless of how liberated we've become, many women and men still experience aging as a threat to their sense of self worth and quality of life.

To age gracefully in a culture which idolizes youth requires inner strength and wisdom. I've discovered two basic requirements of graceful aging. To borrow from the Serenity Prayer, graceful aging requires the "serenity to accept the things we cannot change; courage to change the things we can; and wisdom to know the difference".

Certainly acceptance of aging is a key to aging gracefully -- but which of the changes that commonly come with age are the things we cannot change and which are the things we can change?

Aging Factors We Cannot Change

One thing we absolutely cannot change is the fact that every day brings us closer to death. This one fact alone may account for a great deal of our difficulty with aging. As soon as we see signs of aging, we are reminded that this body is eventually going to die. As we age, we come face to face with our mortality, and to deal with this we must rely upon our spiritual resources. Our spiritual health may well be measured by how we face the fact of our mortality.

There is more of a gray area when it comes to identifying what else we cannot change, as we are only now starting to make scientific discoveries about the aging process. Nevertheless, there are some changes that are clearly inevitable as we age. With menopause, both male and female, we begin to live with a different hormonal environment. The appearance and function of our body changes and we must adapt. Our roles change dramatically as our children grow older and leave home, and we become grandparents rather than parents. At some point, many of us become parents to our parents as they enter their final years.

Growing older also brings more loss. Not only is there loss of many aspects of being young, more people we know die. This may be one of the most difficult aspects of aging. If we havenít learned to grieve earlier in life, the all-important tasks of living with loss must be learned to avoid psychological and health problems.

What We Can Change: The Myths of Aging Revealed

Now that weíve outlined a few of the inevitable aspects of aging, letís look at some myths about aging to reveal things that can be changed. Attitude has an enormous role in how we age. Since much of the decline that people experience with aging comes about due to the belief that this decline is inevitable, examining these myths can help to free us to live happier, more vital lives as we age.

Myth #1 Ė The older I get, the worse my body will feel. The increasing stiffness and aches & pains that often come with age are not a result of age, but are due to lack of movement (if you donít use it, youíll lose it). Although there are some changes in our tissues as we age, we can continue to remain remarkably flexible and free of pain through something as simple as regular stretching.

Myth #2 Ė Itís too late to start taking care of myself -- it wonít do any good at this age. A healthy lifestyle has been found to be one of the most important factors in how we age. Improvements in lifestyle (with the 3 key areas being good food, exercise and regular relaxation and rest) have been shown to bring improvements at any age.

Myth #3 Ė Iím getting too old to learn new things -- Research shows that older people can, and do, learn new things. Attitude plays an important role here -- if you think you canít, you wonít try. People who believe they can learn new things do!

Myth #4 Ė Sex is only for the young. People can, and do, continue to enjoy sex well into their senior years. We are sexual beings throughout the life cycle, but sexuality is experienced differently at different ages. Changes in hormones will affect our experience of sex, and we may need to find different ways to be intimate. Relaxation is key here so that we donít panic when things donít happen the way they used to. Weíre not over the hill, but simply need to give ourselves some breathing room to become familiar with our changing physiologies.

Myth #5 Ė The older I get, the less attractive I become. There is nothing more attractive than someone who has aged well. Havenít you ever noticed that special radiance of an older person who is at peace with themselves and life? Attractiveness has absolutely nothing to do with age!

Itís never too late to change the two most important ingredients to graceful aging Ė attitude and lifestyle. Some of the most effective lifestyle changes are the simplest. Relaxation and stretching are extremely effective tools for successful aging. You can start with either of them right now. Incorporating these two simple things in your daily routine can make a world of difference in how you age!

Submitted by:

Mary Maddux

Mary Maddux is a practitioner, teacher and writer in the fields of healing and self-development. She has an MS in clinical social work, has been trained as a Healing Touch Practitioner and has many years of experience in the practice and teaching of meditation. Drawing on her extensive work background in both conventional and alternative settings, she has created a unique series of CDs for relaxation, meditation and healing. Visit her website, http://www.heartofhealing.net for in-depth discussions and practical information on topics related to healing.




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