There is a difference between getting old and being old but most people don’t think about it because it takes “active awareness” to recognize the difference. The question is, when you are aware there is a difference, how do you make that awareness work for you?
Let’s start here:
Accept that getting old is inevitable and unavoidable. You can’t do a thing about the passage of time but you can choose not to be old. The difference between “getting old” but not “being old” is HUGE.
Getting old is easy. It requires absolutely no effort. Just let life happen. Choosing not to be old requires the ability to manage your mindset, lifestyle, personality, as well as your desire (or lack of) to continue to grow and produce. It really helps if you have a pit bull disposition that drives you to a specific goal.
Getting old starts with acceptance and adoption of the traditional retirement lifestyle and accompanying “senior status”. I realize I keep harping on that but you have to get it in your head — you have to realize that you can decide not to become a “senior”. Choosing to live as a senior reorients the mind from that of a growth oriented producer to adopter of culturally defined “senior” thinking and behavior. It is an express ticket to getting old mentally and physically. It happens rapidly because the human mind and body require effort and challenge to avoid deterioration. Unless you stay constantly aware that you have a choice, and you focus on maintaining that choice, it’s easy to slide into the senior lifestyle because the leisure oriented senior lifestyle is so pervasive and inviting.
I’ll say it again: Little accelerates getting old faster than accepting and internalizing that you are a “senior”. Embedded in that one word are negative images, presumptions and expectations for how you are supposed to be and live at your age. As an unaware senior you start “living” in anticipation of death. The “anticipation of death” syndrome is a big deal. You constantly have to fight it. For example, if you want to do something new that requires a lot of preparation time, it’s easy to think, “I’m 86 years old. Do I really want to bother working to get my real estate license since I probably won’t live long enough to reap the fruit of my labor?” That’s “living” in anticipation of death. A better way to think is, “So what if I don’t live long enough to enjoy the result what I want to do. I”ll have fun doing it and I’ll be helpful to others.” That is living in anticipation of life.
When you consider yourself a senior there is a tendency to regress to group oriented dependent teenage type thinking and behavior. It’s very limiting. Ask most any resident of “seniors only” housing about clannish behavior of residents. If you are a widow, appear younger than the diva of “clan in charge” or have a boyfriend, or perhaps have a bit more spending money, you may be “shunned” and not invited to participate in group activities.
To fit in, seniors join “seniors only” groups, read “seniors only” publications, congregate at “senior centers”. You are no longer part of the larger world. You are different. The larger world doesn’t particularly like you, but that’s okay; you follow the prescribed senior protocol and find comfort and security in it. It’s more than limiting; it’s stultifying.
People who choose not to be old don’t follow traditional rules about living and aging. They thumb their nose at customs and outdated traditions that have failed to keep pace with the reality that we are living longer healthier lives, and that previous limiting beliefs about the physical and intellectual capacity of chronologically old people are not valid, and never were.
This is not intended to offend those who have chosen the traditional retirement lifestyle. To each his or her own. Many get to retirement age mentally and physically worn out and just want to be left alone to enjoy what is left of life. If you are not among them, and are ready for more years of productive living, just be aware that you can choose not to be old. But you do have to make your decision before you are sucked into the traditional retirement system and no longer have the ability to choose.