“My what?” Okay, now that I have your attention, gerascophobia is a medical term that describes the fear of getting older. If you know someone with gerascophobia, you are well aware of the fear and anxiety its sufferers experience. Thankfully, concerns about aging don’t typically manifest as a full-blown phobia. Instead, most of us fret about the future condition of our health, our wealth, our purpose, our legacy, our relationships, and just how far to go with wrinkle management. If you ask me, that’s plenty!
It can be difficult to turn a blind eye to the many cultural messages that suggest we should dread the next birthday, lie about our age, or fight like hell to reclaim the taut physical form of our youth. Maybe it’s the either-or framing that messes with us the most. I mean, how many times has a genuinely well-intentioned friend said, “Whatever you do, don’t give up and don’t give in to aging”? Well, my answer is “It’s not that black and white.”
What it Means to be Me
As the days, months, and years pass, I continue to make choices about what it means to be me right now. What it means to hold fast to the timeless, ageless aspects of myself while easing into the often humbling changes that arrive unbidden. It’s so personal. While one choice – like a cool hair barrette – is a nod to my younger self, a growing collection of memory foam Sketchers is a stoical acceptance of my current age and reality. On a deeper level, being me means living steadfastly from my lessons learned, my values, and my priorities as I continue to change.
The women I know who personify the term “aging gracefully” practice acceptance of aging as the courageous antidote to futile resistance. Their repertoire includes humor and curiosity as healthy responses to aging’s unexpected changes. And, they are unapologetic about the number of candles on the cake. There’s a freedom, a joyful lightness of being that comes with this approach to getting older. By combining that freedom with making good choices, aging can be, as my wise mom used to say, “Beautiful, Jeannie!”
Six Good Choices
- Take care of your mind – monitor and manage your thoughts by staying positive. Seek out new learning to keep cognitive decline at bay. Limit screen time so that it doesn’t suck up all of your valuable hours!
- Nurture your relationships – our relationships sustain us. Don’t allow them to wither away. Tend to them with love, attention, and constancy.
- Eat well – you need to be able to count on your body. Take the time to discuss your nutrition with an expert or follow current guidelines for eating well “at your age.” Doing so might just be one of your personal “non-negotiables.”
- Move more – I know, I know. You are sick of hearing that you should get off your duff and get moving. But as with eating well, movement is integral to health and well-being, especially as we age.
- Be present – the past matters as a source of lessons learned and experiences treasured. But this moment, this day matters the most. When you wake up, ask yourself how you want to feel at the end of these 24 hours. Live this day with the intention of making that vision a reality.
- Practice gratitude – Looking back on our lives, it is easy to focus on the losses, especially the big ones. If you find yourself stuck there, give yourself a gentle nudge that allows you to shift your focus on the many good things in your life – past, present, and just ahead.