How to Accept Aging Without Feeling Old

I never minded getting a haircut until about ten years ago.  Then something horrifying happened.  My hairstylist finished cutting my hair, gave me a hand-held mirror, and proceeded to slowly turn the barber’s chair around so I can inspect her work.  As the mirror reflected the rear of my head what I saw next made me nearly pass out.  It was the early signs of a bald spot forming. Over the past decade, my hair has been slowly and progressively thinning.  I’ve tried all types of solutions: Rogaine, vitamins, natural products, and laser comb.  Nothing has worked.  I even considered the hair restoration process.  (You can donate to my fund if you’re looking for a worthy cause to contribute to.) Lately, I have come to terms with aging.  I don’t like it.  But I do accept it.  It’s unavoidable.  I decided that aging is not a big deal unless I make it one. So, whether you’re in your thirties, forties, fifties (like me) or older, you will eventually have to come to terms with aging. I’d like to share with you how to accept aging without feeling old.

Be realistic about your appearance

Susan Sarandon aging quoteAs you age your appearance will gradually change.  Wrinkles and aging spots form. Your body starts to sag in all the wrong places.  The texture, color, and density of your hair will likely change.  This is normal. There are some things you can do to limit the effects of aging on your appearance. Hair color to cover the gray.  Creams and ointments to treat wrinkles.  Some choose cosmetic surgery as a more aggressive form to achieve a youthful appearance. These tactics may buy you some time, but they cannot hide the inevitable, you are looking older.  Is that bad?  Is it unacceptable? Or, is it simply a phase of life?  Growing up you watched others do it.  Now it’s your turn. For me, I found that once I accepted some of the physical realities of aging it does not bother me as much.  Rather than cringe when I look in the mirror and see the evidence of aging, I choose to smile and give myself some credit for not looking too bad!

Act as young as you feel on the inside

The mirror reminds me of my age.  It reflects my external appearance.  Internally, I feel like a guy in his mid-thirties.  So, daily I give a nod to the guy in the mirror, but go about my day as a younger feeling self.  Boy, am I having fun!  I play basketball, jog, golf (no laughter from the peanut gallery), and have a high-voltage social life.  Still enjoy the thrill rides at Great America, now riding side saddle with my grandson Cameron. In terms of career, I’m currently writing my second book, while managing a growing a counseling practice.  In October, I am gathering about 20 of my grade school/high school friends together for a weekend get-together at Starved Rock State Park. Why am I doing all this stuff?   Because I choose to act how I feel on the inside.

Take your health seriously

As we age, health risks increase.  To limit potential health problems I recommend you develop a health plan.  I was a typical male when it came to health management until I reached my forties. Now I have routine health examinations, eat smarter, and exercise regularly.  Recently, my new internist recommended jogging so I am.  I jog on a really cool, state-of-the-art track at our local high school. We can make aging a big deal if we don’t take our health seriously.  Do not ignore the warning signs.  I lost a close family member a year ago to a fatal heart attack because he did not act soon enough. Do you schedule regular doctor visits?  Exercise plan? Reasonable diet?  If not, I suggest you take your health seriously and act now.

Find meaning for your life now

Aging is existential.  It begs questions.  “What is the meaning of my life now?”  “Who am I?”  “How do I find purpose?” Some individuals think about aging as retirement, what they will do when they don’t have to work anymore.  They plan for retirement. (By the way, I recommend you do this.)  Some dream of retirement near the ocean.  Others simply worry that they will have enough to live on when the time comes. Aging is not about endings.  It is about new beginnings.  As you think about growing older, what do you want to start doing? Leisure activities are wonderful if you have the means to do it. However, there is nothing quite as energizing as having a purpose in life and doing something about it. I have friends who do volunteer work, mentoring, or missions work to care for the poor around the world.  As I write, a client/doctor is preparing to embark on a medical missions trip to South Africa.  He’s stoked! If you are older you are likely wiser.  You are a valuable resource to young people today who crave leadership.  In my counseling and executive coaching practice I function more as a sage giving pearls of wisdom to couples who want healthy relationships.  I enjoy this role.  It is deeply rewarding.

Renew your inner self

Here’s a quote from one of my favorite spiritual authors: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”  I love that quote.  For me, it captures the dual process of aging externally, while feeling renewed in spirit internally.  I’m looking older but feeling younger. How do you renew your inner self? For me, I journal regularly to process what I am feeling on the inside.  It also provides a record of my journey that I can re-read and note the progress I am making. I also engage in my spirituality on a daily basis.  This includes reading scripture, meditation and prayer. Renewing your inner self is vital to the aging process.  If you don’t, you are likely to feel old and act that way too! So I say this, when it comes to aging.  Accept it.  Embrace it.  Engage in it. Enjoy it!  By all means do not feel old about it!
Some great and funny aging quotes
Maxine aging quote “Age is of no importance unless you are a cheese.” “The secret of staying young is picking an age you like and sticking with it.” Snoopy, Peanuts character. “I am not interested in looking younger. I want to look healthy and radiant. I want to look like me.” Cindy Joseph

Now it’s your turn

How do you age without feeling older?  Share some ideas or ways of thinking that work for you. Add your comments below.