Published: February 14, 2023
Get a chatty group of older adults together and they’re likely to talk (and yes complain) about the challenges of growing old, from their aches and ailments to struggles doing household chores and remembering names.
If the negative talk persists, someone (maybe you) is likely to remind the group “consider the alternative.” Or as Mark Twain said: “Do not complain about growing old. It is a privilege denied to many.”
So this week as we celebrate the annual holiday of love, let’s focus on what you “love” about growing old.
I’ll start. I love having the gift of time. I’m an avid reader and now I can leisurely read while lying in bed during the early morning hours or late afternoon. I think back to 20 years ago when that was unthinkable. I also love to exercise and now I doubly love it because my health insurance includes a free membership to my neighborhood Y. I used to attend a 6:30 a.m. yoga class. Now I love that I can take a class any time, sometimes deciding to do so on the spur of the moment.
These are simple pleasures, for sure, but they help me stay positive about aging, which as we all know is important to maintaining a healthy body and mind.
What experts says about being positive and aging
A recent Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study of 14,000 adults over age 50 found that people with more positive attitudes about growing old tend to live longer and healthier lives than those with negative thoughts about aging. People who had the highest satisfaction with aging had a 43% lower risk of dying from any cause over a four-year period compared with those who were the least satisfied.
“The study also found that people more satisfied with the aging process had lower risk for conditions such as diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart disease; better cognitive functioning; were more likely to engage in physical activity and less likely to have trouble sleeping; were less lonely and depressed; and were more optimistic with a greater sense of purpose,” according to a Harvard news release.
Another smaller study involved 660 people from Oxford, Ohio over more than two decades. The Yale researcher Becca Levy found that those with a positive attitude toward aging lived on average 7.5 years longer than those who viewed it as something bad.
What Kendal residents “love” about growing old
We asked a number of Kendal residents what they “love” about growing old and here are some of their responses:
“I love laughing at myself at least once before breakfast at how many times I fumble, forget or mess up formerly simple activities. I love understanding how past losses and sorrows have turned out to be blessings as I see that I have developed new skills and deeper compassion for myself and others. I love being grateful that I ended up at Kendal where I am cared for as I decline physically but am always supported to keep expanding in mind and spirit every day.”
“I love being the age I am as a lifetime of friends are still great to keep in touch with.
Memories are as exciting as when they happened.”
Nancy Bradford Garver
“Growing old with (my wife) Joyce and growing fonder; from the folk song ‘We've Got an Old Love,’ the words, ‘I don't love you like I did; Oh, I love you so much more.’"
“What I LOVE about growing old (and I'm about to turn 90!) is that I am at Kendal where I can keep as busy as I want with many friends right here, committees to join on a great variety of interests, lots of programs - lectures in all areas and subjects, wonderful music, movies, and the lovely pool.”
“The other day, I joined a conversation around the table about the things we have lost by growing older. I think it was my suggestion that we talk about the benefits, but maybe it was someone else...
One of my thoughts included that with increasing age we may be better able to practice relinquishment. Relinquishment doesn't feel like doing without -- material possessions, thoughts of achieving more and better, etc. -- but rather acknowledging what is valued that continues in our lives and gives them meaning.
“Simplifying and focusing. (I love) living in an arboretum in a pedestrian neighborhood adjacent to a world class college, and lifelong learning.“
“(I love) shedding a lot of the ‘shoulder,’ getting to be who I really am.”
Tell us what you love about growing old.
In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.
About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.