By Sharon O'Brien, About.com Guide
Writer Ken Garfield, formerly of the Charlotte Observer , offered a thoughtful argument about the need for all of us to start seeing aging in a new way -- and to value what we see.
"The elderly need affordable health care and medicine, a safe place to live, and loved ones who won't turn their backs on them. But to live a truly good life until the end, the elderly also need to see themselves in a new light, and so do their children," Garfield said.
To illustrate how some people advocate rethinking the way we see the aging process, Garfield described a doctor in Little Rock, Arkansas who advises his older patients to observe themselves naked in a full-length mirror-and to tell themselves that they are beautiful.
A New Model for Old Age
Garfield advocates giving up the standards we use to measure success in our 20's (or our 50's) -- like being busy all the time -- and embracing instead the creativity and dignity that seniors demonstrate as they cope with the challenges that come with aging and the imminence of death.
"[Older adult] challenges go beyond climbing the corporate ladder or paying down a credit card," Garfield said.
"Their struggles involve living with the death of a spouse or the loss of their health, or being abandoned by children who think they have better things to do than visit mom in the nursing home."
Older people and young people alike can benefit from thinking of seniors as "wise guides" and "wounded healers" who can teach others how to live with dignity and compassion.
Aging and the Keys to Contentment
Here are a few suggestions that can help to ensure happy senior years:
- Love yourself and others
- Have faith, and engage in prayer or meditation
- Identify a purpose for your life, and live it daily
- Maintain your self-esteem
- Practice forgiveness, for yourself and others