by Ann Robson
At first glance, the term “mindful aging” seems to be an odd combination of words. However, it is a wise concept for those reaching the age of 50 or perhaps even 40. Mindful aging wants you to start thinking about your personal aging, and try to plan for it so that your life will continue to flow in a pattern that has developed as you add birthdays to your life.
The basic fact is that aging will happen, whether you want it or not. Even if you do everything you can to still look young, your body knows how old it is and one way or another will let you know. No 60-year-old who looks only 50 expects a heart attack, but one can stop you in your tracks without warning.
We are aging from the moment we are born. If we’re lucky, we may have a long life. If some genetic or environmental interference comes along, at least we are living in a world with outstanding medical establishments and people. We must also be aware, or mindful, of what could happen and how to cope with it. For some, a medical emergency can bring bankruptcy.
“Plan for the worst and hope for the best” is a phrase I’ve heard often in discussions. Sounds like good advice. The sooner the planning begins, the easier it will be to put it in place if needed.
Planning is not just “in case” planning but considering your living arrangements, what sort of things you want to be able to do, and who you want to take care of your estate. Having a conversation, or series of conversations, with your spouse and your family needs to be part of your planning. They need to know what you would want, if a time comes when you can’t speak for yourself.
Some of the negatives of aging can be counterbalanced with a plan to be as healthy as you can and still be a happy contributor to the world you live in. Many getting ready to retire need to have a plan for the next phase of their lives. You can’t work a 10-hour day as an indispensable part of your job and then suddenly be at home wondering what to do. This tends to happen more to men than women, but with long careers now becoming part of a woman’s life, she also needs to plan ahead. Volunteering is a great way to transition from work to play.
Paying attention to the workings of both your mind and body is one aspect of mindful aging. If you notice something is going awry, say the dreaded “lump” someplace it doesn’t belong, you can get it taken care of earlier rather than later.
If one’s parents are still alive, they could be role models -either to follow or to do things much differently. I often say, “Things my mother never taught me,” when another medical speedbump comes along. I watched my mother reach 92, and she was not the happy, fun-loving woman she had been at 50, 60 and 70. Health problems played a part, but she didn’t seem to have a plan as a widow for several years, thus leaving the difficult job of getting her to relocate to an assisted living community to my brother and me. I vowed to not do that. Her generation wasn’t expected to live that long, but ours is and the baby boomers even longer. A plan for our own aging is such a gift to our families, who may or may not agree with us. It’s an important gift you give yourself if you attack this thing called aging and plan to enjoy life.
Robson is the author of “Over My Shoulder: Tales of Life and Death and Everything In Between.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org