Aging well seems like such a simple prospect: keep active, stay mentally alert, and maintain a social calendar that ties it all together.
The reality is much more complicated, of course.
Mental illness, physical limitations, and enforced lifestyle changes all come into play, confounding expectations and requiring adjustments to any long-term plans we have in place.
Against this backdrop, the notion of aging well becomes much more individual, subject to the unique health and emotional concerns of the person in question.
Aging in the Media Spotlight
The New York Times focused on both sides of the aging coin earlier this month.
In its feature article Fraying at the Edges, the strains of living with Alzheimer’s Disease are explored in distressing detail. While it makes an attempt to represent the positive aspects of mental impairment – finding renewed perspective, refocusing priorities, making the necessary plans for care support – the extreme lows of the process are presented for all to see.
At the other end of the spectrum, an opinion piece by Gerald Marzorati focuses on the positive aspects of expanding our skills as we age.
Better Aging Through Practice, Practice, Practice doesn’t claim to be a cure-all, but it does promote the benefits of finding a new passion helping to limit the effects of advancing years. Without the pressure of performing at a high level or impressing peers, as is often the case in our younger years, the pure focus on enjoying a new activity holds special health benefits for seniors.
If the interest is physical, for example, the regular activity it promotes . The social and mental aspects flow naturally from that, as most sports or exercise involves others and the conversation alone helps to keep the mind working.
As Marzorati puts it: “At 63, I am not really concerned about where all this winds up that. It’s the getting there that I’m enthralled with.”
A new journey is as good as a new lease of life for some people, the writer holds, and the practice required can make the path of aging that little bit easier to manage. Fittingly, the wider journey of getting older is another area that has drawn media focus in recent months.
Focusing on the Journey
It isn’t just the Times that has taken up the challenge of bringing the subject of aging to the mainstream media this year, either. In February, TIME magazine dedicated an entire issue to aging and longevity.
One of the most striking articles in the issue focused on how old people see dying, which we wrote about it subsequently. It explains why the value of the journey – a life well lived – provides a more practical view of death for some seniors.
All of these articles offer insight that some will find uncomfortable. Aging is not a topic that many people want to think about until it’s their turn. Even then, the conversation can be awkward and shrouded in misconceptions. Setting it in the context of a longer journey helps to connect the dots, showing how much older people value their experiences in younger life and want to continue to make memories that keep them happy.
Finally, connecting the generations is exactly the objective of the AARP’s #DisruptAging campaign. It aims to challenge preconceptions about different age groups and to show younger people that seniors are capable of much more than they imagine.
The video below exemplifies the campaign. Asking a simple question, “What is old?”, to people in their twenties and thirties, the results are as entertaining for us as they are illuminating for the younger generations involved.