Warmest regards: Readers respond to question about aging
By Pattie Mihalik
In a recent column I wrote about aging, I asked readers if they thought life got easier or harder as we age.
I wrote that column after reading an article in a health magazine titled “Five Reasons Life Gets Easier as We Age.”
I responded to the column by concluding life gets physically harder as we age. For the most part, our bodies grow weaker, not stronger.
Mentally, I think the opposite if true. In many ways, we grow stronger.
Part of that is because we learn to distinguish between what is important and what’s not worth fretting about.
And perhaps part of the reason is because of the truth in the adage: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
By the time we reach our sixth, seventh or eighth decade, most of us have weathered plenty of storms. By that age many of us also have survived a health crisis or have been hit with difficult circumstances almost too hard to handle.
When we become survivors of a physical or emotional crisis we might mellow. Or, we learn to be grateful for every blessing big or small.
So I suppose we could make a case that mentally life becomes easier as we age.
The article concluded our self-confidence and our compassion improves with age, making life better in some ways.
Various surveys seems to agree with that article. Surveys show older people claim to happier than they were previously. On the whole, the surveys conclude older folks are much happier than younger people.
So, do you believe life gets easier than we age?
I threw the question open to readers, asking for their views.
I’m sharing some of those responses in today’s column.
This is the thoughtful response I received from East Penn Press reader Charlotte Grace:
“Although I consider myself to be generally a positive person, I have to say that life for me has not gotten easier.
There are several reasons … hospitalizations, cancer, the death of a beloved son and the death of a wonderful sister, and loss of dear friends to name just a few life challenges that have impacted and somewhat “dented” my positive view on aging.
I do try to see the cup half full and not color the world around me with negativity, but age does not always have its privileges. I see elderly folks in my little town struggling to afford their taxes and be able to buy their much-needed medications.
Sometimes that means resultant sale of a longtime abode out of desperation.
I see aging grandparents who sit by lonely day after day waiting for a visit from their children and grandchildren. I witness the fast-paced society that discounts anyone over the age of 35.
I am rushed through the checkout lines and tailgated in traffic when going the speed limit. When not living among peers of a certain age, those of a certain age become invisible and are dismissed as expendable.
I yearn for the simpler days of yesteryear when people actually cared about the aging and took the time to visit grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Despite my somewhat cynical statements, I DO try to age with GRACE. I try to keep a sense of humor and value my dear friends and family. I try to be the change that I want to effect.
In conclusion, I try to learn that most all of life is change, and like the willow tree must learn to bend with the wind, to not grieve the past seasons or the lost leaves that fall to the ground, but to stand firm and remember that the season of spring and renewal will come once again.”
Well said, Charlotte.
A Lehighton reader sent a similar response that said aging becomes difficult when we are alone without family nearby.
Bethlehem reader Michael Lurski had this insightful response:
“You asked readers to respond to what gets easier as we age.
I would say that it becomes easier, most of the time, to accept ourselves.
This means accepting what we have done during our lives, accepting our flaws and limitations, and forgiving ourselves for whatever we regret about our past.
It also becomes easier to downplay what other people think about us. Peer approval becomes less important.
Also, on most days, it becomes easier to live in the present, especially since we are acutely aware our future is not unlimited.
Finally, having gone through the earlier stages of life, we become more tolerant and understanding of younger people and what we perceive as their erroneous thinking, opinions and actions. I like to think we can do this because we become wiser with age.”
Other readers that responded said whether or not life gets easier as we age depends on what age brings our way.
If it is serious illness or physical deliberation, then life gets harder, not easier.
But if age brings a rewarding retirement and reasonably good health, then life does get easier with age, readers said.
I agree. To me, retirement is more than richly rewarding. It’s a bit like a second childhood, only better, because unlike children, I know these days won’t stretch on forever.
If it’s true that life is a banquet, then retirement is the delicious dessert — a nice ending to the main course.
That’s one guilt-free dessert we can all relish.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at firstname.lastname@example.org.