Healthy Living

Secrets of Growing Older

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 09/26/2011
Last Updated: 08/03/2012

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I have friends of all ages, ranging in age from 20-somethings to 80-somethings. I enjoy them all; time together is always time well spent.

When I'm with the younger ones, I feel like the wise old(er) woman, experienced enough to impart some of my hard-won wisdom upon them. Mind you, I never volunteer unless asked. I hate the thought of coming off as pushy or as a know-it-all. That makes me shudder. But asked for my opinion, I will gladly offer it, hoping that I can help. I'm also not too old to learn something from them, too. And being what I'd like to think of as a keen observer, I never fail to notice that younger or less experienced does not always equal naiveté or ignorance, leading to new revelations, realizations and realities.

When I'm with my older friends, I appreciate that there are always things I can learn from them. I invariably look to them as role models of sorts, kind of like I imagine my younger friends might look upon me. After enjoying our time together, there is ultimately something I walk away with that warms me and makes me grin and feel eternally grateful for the friendship.

So what have I learned about life, aging and feeling young?

  • Step out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself. Take tap dancing lessons even though you were born with two left feet. Smile at the meanest-looking stranger you see even though you're intimidated beyond belief. Ask for a discount even though you're convinced you are the worst negotiator that ever lived.
  • Learn as much as you can. Take every opportunity to discover something new. There is something to be learned everywhere you look; you just have to be open to taking it in. You don't know what you don't know, so asking questions and being curious can open up a whole new world.
  • Take care of your body. It's what makes you breathe, move and feel. No one else is going to take care of it for you. Even if you think they will, they won't take care of it as well as YOU will.
  • Be resilient. Life certainly has its challenges, but it is possible to get through them. Knowing this can set you on a path to face what lies ahead. Face it, the longer we live, the more life throws our way.
  • Avoid and anticipate toxic people. You know those people who are manipulative, negative, needy and neurotic? (OK, we're all a little neurotic, but I mean neurotic to the point of focusing on nothing else and letting it dominate everything.) They sap your energy. They age you. They make you feel frustrated. Who needs that?

Let's add to this list. I'd love to hear your take on aging, what you've learned and what you'd like others to know!

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Great list. I would add Trust yourself.

Mired in eldercare things gives me a new perspective on this >>>Take care of your body. It's what makes you breathe, move and feel. No one else is going to take care of it for you.<<<<

And, my motto lately, since I'm in a what-life-throws-at-you patch ... The only way forward is through.

It'd be a huge relief to skip some of the harder parts of life, but truly ... the only way forward is through.

Age always takes you by surprise. No matter how many gray hairs or wrinkles, or sagging lumps of flesh, inside you are still twelve years old.

As you get older, if you're lucky, you pay more attention to the world around you, because you know that your days to appreciate it are limited.

So in that way, maybe you are cycling back to that younger self inside--the one who had time to appreciate the newness of the world without the distractions of got-tos and shouldas.

You are so right, Vera. Inside we are all so much younger than what shows on the outside. I love your advice. Thanks!

I love your advice to challenge yourself--I do think that keeps you younger (that and a good hair stylist with an eye for color;)

Love this list. How about: Do things you love? Life is too short to work in a job you hate, economic meltdown notwithstanding.

And another: Mix it up. Choose a different driving route. Explore a new musical genre. Try a new recipe or cooking technique. Stretch that brain a bit, versus operating on auto pilot.

Show you care: Tell your kids you love 'em. Take a bunch of flowers to a friend who needs cheering up or soup to a sick pal. Doing something for others makes everyone feel good. Sounds Pollyanish, I know, but it's true.

Great additions to the list. Definitely important! I love them all, especially to remember to show you care. It makes such a difference not only to you, but to the others in your life.

You've kind of covered it, but one thing I've learned is that one has to roll with the changes. Life is full of them and if we don't learn to go with them, it's going to be one stressful life. I try to take the attitude that something happens for a reason, even if it's something I don't want or didn't plan. I find that's the healthiest attitude.

You're so right, LL. Rolling with the changes is so important to keep us flexible and from "cracking."

thoughtful post, Sheryl. it shows you are already good at one of the things I've learned along the way: the value of listening.

I guess so, Kerry. Listening is being open to so many things, yes. Hadn't thought of it quite that way before.

What a great post! I have always had friends of all ages, perhaps because I lived in France for 25 years and making friends of any kind there was a challenge. Now that I'm back in the USA, I have noticed Americans seem more hesitant to become friends with an older person, and yes, now I am the older person!! I particularly appreciated your suggestion about toxic people. I had encounters with at least one in my life, and yes, they should be avoided. Also like the Be Resilient advice. Take care of your body: exercise daily. Right?

Thanks, Alexandra. I do think as we get older it is tougher to make friends; or maybe it's just that we have to try harder. But often those are the friendships that have deeper meaning, since we are different (and more developed) people by that time. Call it a silver lining...:)

And remember this is NOT a dress rehearsal...

and remember this is not a dress rehearsal..!

I have friends of different ages, though not as quite a wide a spread as you! My best youngest friend is my nephew Jared. We go to the movies together and I really enjoy his company.

You've said in another words that all your friends don't have to look exactly like you!

another thought: remember to be grateful for all that's good in your life.

Honoring the moment and the self in the moment. Simple, when I do it; the key is remembering to do, however.

GREAT motto. I have to remember this one. Says it all.

All so true!

Believe me, you DON'T want to see me tap dance. That's what I've learned over the years (thanks to a high school performance of Anything Goes). I do try to say yes to things that scare me, though!

Try new things. Don't let being afraid to fail keep you from doing something new. I'm always amazed at the number of people who do the same old things over and over, complain of being bored and then are too scared to try anything new. Get out and do it and let go of that need for perfection.

Doing new things is a great way to stay young. Many people get into routines as they get older rather than trying out classes of all sorts, such as learning a new language or taking martial arts. It's a great way to exercise body and mind while also maybe meeting a new set of friends.


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