Aging in our society is seen as something to grieve as if there’s been a loss – a dysfunction.
We spend so much money trying to reverse it, or keep it away (and sometimes on creams and potions to “prevent” it before it begins to show.) It is mocked and above all, feared. You can purchase "preventing it" - often at hundreds of dollars a bottle - but aging itself is not truly preventable. Aging is something we are told we need to start "fighting" at 25.
In some more traditional other cultures, aging is not only celebrated, but elders are revered for their wisdom and health. These cultures are (somewhat ironically) seen as more “primitive” and we have got away from that feeling of respect for growing wisdom. Elders in these other cultures are highly respected, and the young folks can very much look forward to reaching that age. In our society, we place such a high value on beauty, that when our ideal image of beauty fades, we feel like everything else does too.
Healthy nutrition through your life is so important, but as seniors (especially those with conditions or diseases) it can be vital. Am I getting enough calcium for healthy bones? How do I keep my blood sugars in control? Other similar questions are quite common. It all comes down to one answer: eat real food - as much natural food as possible.
When asked what that means by someone over 70, I reply "The stuff you grew up on."
People over 70 remember eating whole foods - the time before a career in nutrition existed as no one needed this dietary guidance. When I talk about butter they laugh, remembering how that was 'demonized' when they were mid-age adults but now will happily go back to eating it.
I knew that I wanted to talk to someone who could offer a spiritual description of aging, too. Someone who could impart much more wisdom and knowledge about it rather than the images I'd been told, or fed by the machine.
And I knew just the Wild Woman. Laurel is a 61 year old woman at the time of this writing, and after yoga class one Saturday in the hot indian summer, we got to talking and she offered willingly to tell me her stories on the idea of aging.
When we settle in to the discussion of aging, Laurel starts out by stating that we are MEANT to grow older here, in every part of the word. No time for small talk, we dove right in and I'm writing notes as she shares.
"Growing Older is an Adventure."
“As a human being, we have the intelligence. The same way an acorn has the intelligence to become a tree, and a sprout the intelligence to become a plant. Growing older is an adventure. We are afraid of aging because we want things to stay the same. Well guess what, its coming anyways, if you’re lucky! As you get old, you learn to lay it on the table and say it as it is, you get tired of small talk.” Laurel had words to share specifically about the womens perspective on menopause. She says menopause is like giving birth to yourself, it is your time to now transform yourself. You’ve pro-created, co-created and re-created. Your reality is no longer based on child-bearing years.” There are so many women over the age of 65 (and thats going to increase – our lifespan has expanded since the early 1900s - women used to only live to see 40) that Laurel sees that as a “huge reservoir of power.” In menopause, Laurel shares that its your time to find your own authentic self and live in your full power. You want to learn to tell stories and WELL.
My face must've given away my tender thought "Well I can tell stories - pretty good - I think." Laurel states with a smile “Honey, you don’t get this through workshops. Only life lived.”
We all seem to think that workshops and certificates and “advancing” and doing MORE is so much better or will get us somewhere faster.... and it is, as we all work so hard this stress is getting us to an advanced age faster! I know that a big part of the problem is the world at at large and our society has affected or created everything she is saying, I slowly articulated this to her.
"When you’re 20, you never wanna be 60."
“Society is caught in a prolonged adolescence,” she shocks me again with shiny verbal gems as I’m writing frantically trying to fit it all in on my paper. When I share about how the media and our society is youth obsessed, and how other cultures revere their elders, she lowers her head and slowly says “There is bad energy towards aging – as if they’ve airbrushed us out.” Then she pops her head back up and asked if I knew that there was a Japanese saying that every wrinkle means you’ve been kissed by the moon?
I knew right then and there that if everyone heard this “aging” conversation on the level that I did, word for word, we would grow our respect towards elders and the process of aging.
"They've airbrushed us out"
My mind was blown. What a perfect poignant description encompassing everything we had just talked about. They airbrush our "perfect" young faces and then they airbrush out anything that doesn't confine to the strict box of beauty. The airbrush became more than a tool at that moment, it became a painful metaphor.
In regards to exercise and slowing down as you age she said “We have more strength on a certain level, we’ve learned to endure more, it has nothing to do with physical strength, its in the heart. You only get this through experiences in life that change you.”
"Continual Acid Drip"
In respect to the process of dying itself, Laurel says “It is a great honor to live to be old, aging is an opportunity to do your personal work and be ready to die, a personal excavation that you can only do when you’re old.”
We come back around again to the effects of media, people and society. And one of her responses this time included the sentence “Don’t buy the continual acid drip that tells you you’re not good enough” - this one has me frantically writing tiny in corners and sideways to fit it all in.
You make headway when you go against the grain - when the grain just doesn't feel right. Looking at articles, ads and other media with different eyes, so you can go inward and think about whether that is right for you or not.
Chances are, you'll see a "continuous acid drip" selling you the idea that you're not good enough. Just think about whether that feels right.
Signs, signs, everywhere a sign.
Make up your own mind...
You're only as old as you feel. It sounds like there is a lot to look forward to.
If we can switch our thinking about aging, it would certainly make the process more exciting rather than something to dread. Why should we dread the wisest time of life? I gleamed from this hour that it gets BETTER. There's aging, and then there's aging well.
The psychological aspect of aging is key to me. The physical side - the nutrition for seniors’ that is vital to aging well for mental health, skin health and heart health can be explored below:
Read [5 Reasons You Need Whole Foods] to learn the basics of holistic nutrition and what foods to eat to support your digestion, weight and mental wellness as you age.
Read [Are Organic Packaged Foods Healthier] to learn some small nutrition upgrades you can make as you work to improve your diet.