I watched my reflection change in the mirror, dreading the new wrinkles and grey hair. Then I learned how to practice the art of aging gracefully

Back in the 20th century when I was young (yikes!) I was always envious of the older kids who were one step closer to adulthood.

Every passing year was a reminder of a race I couldn’t win against my older cousins, but at least I was slowly but surely approaching the ultimate goal of being a grown-up.

I mean, what kid didn’t want to be a grown-up, right? 

When you’re a grown-up, you can stay up as late as you want and eat cookies in bed. You can have friends over whenever you like and have what you want for dinner every night!

Of course, the child’s idea of adulthood equals all the perks minus any of the downsides, like bills, work, and relationship challenges.

Then your childish fantasy becomes in-your-face reality and before you know it, a few decades have passed and you realize that you have more living behind you than in front of you.

It’s the ultimate reality check while you’re still busy trying to master the art of adulting and feeling no different on the inside than you did when you were twenty.

But one day you pass a mirror and see an aging crone woman with graying hair and crow’s feet and wonder who this stranger in your house is.

Then it jumpscare dawns on you that the stranger in the mirror is you. 

Our uneasiness about getting older attacks our vanity first, because when we talk about aging (especially as it pertains to women) the discourse typically revolves around the concept of “aging gracefully.” 

Now, from what I can tell based on societal norms, “aging gracefully” is often used as code to encourage older women to look at least a decade younger than they really are, while also – and here’s the catch – making it look completely effortless. 

No pressure, right? 

Far too often, aging gracefully means navigating the disapproving stares of those who believe women past a certain age should be invisible, or at least be treated that way. 

We deal with all this while knowing our value actually increases with age instead of depreciating, even though our youth-obsessed culture tells us otherwise. 

But what if we put a new spin on aging? 

Instead of perceiving the aging process as something to fear and ultimately conquer, what if we work to amplify the many advantages of growing older, while still acknowledging the passage of our youth and the losses incurred along the way? 

Now, I don’t mean that we should gloss over or minimize the very real challenges, both physical and mental, that aging presents. 

But we can choose to view these challenges without fear or shame and look for positive ways to navigate them. That’s a choice we can make every day to ensure that aging gracefully means doing the inner work, not stressing over the outer wrapper.

After all, it’s better than the alternative, right? 

Right? 

Anyway, here are a few tips I’ve learned (so far) to age as gracefully as possible.

Live in the now

This is such a hard lesson to learn, or at least it was in my case. I’m the anxious sort, so I’ve spent decades terrified over what the future may hold and ruminating over past mistakes.

Because of this toxic pattern, I was robbing myself of the one sure thing–the moment I’m presently existing in.

We can’t predict every little twist and turn life will take, which is a total drag. But instead of having a panic attack over it, you can decide to make the most of each moment while you’re living it. 

People who are aging well live in the present. They know that “now” is all we’re promised, so they seize the day like a boss.

Prioritize your health

Going for regular physicals is always prudent, but it’s even more important to remain vigilant as we age. 

I found that, after fifty or so, our body’s extended warranty expires leaving us open to oodles of health concerns. 

So visiting your doctor on the reg helps you catch little problems before they become big problems. This is no small thing as we grow older.

We pay a lot of attention to our physical health as we age, but it’s important to protect our mental health as well.

According to the CDC,  20% of adults over the age of 55 are struggling with a mental health issue. The most common mental health challenges for elders include anxiety, depression, memory loss, and cognitive impairment.

If you haven’t already, it’s probably a good time to learn some stress management skills. And I really need to take my own advice.

So yeah, meditation and yoga are excellent stress reducers, or you can go out in the woods and scream. Works for me. 

Stay interested

morning habits that will make you a more joyful person in life I watched my reflection change in the mirror, dreading the new wrinkles and grey hair. Then I learned how to practice the art of aging gracefully

Having hobbies and special interests are important for people of all ages. Fostering your creativity and pursuing your passions keeps your mind sharp.

And never stop learning! It doesn’t matter what new skills you pursue, as long as you find it challenging and interesting. 

The National Institute on Aging reports that participating in engaging activities as we grow older not only helps us maintain healthy coping mechanisms, it may even add years to our lives.

Stalk beauty

While conducting a study regarding older adults, researchers discovered that taking an “awe walk,”  which is a stroll dedicated to observing all of the inspiring and exquisite things all around us.  

The results included an increase in joy and positive emotions like kindness and selflessness. 

So stopping to smell the roses really is a thing.

I can personally attest to an awe walk’s effectiveness. Even if I can only escape for 15 minutes, I’ve never once regretted taking the time to take notice of the beauty around me, like swollen tree buds in the spring, or the spicy smell of crunchy leaves beneath your feet in the fall. 

Invoking our sense of wonder is how we create our own joy as we age, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

You can’t beat that.

Forgiveness

For others and yourself. Especially yourself.

Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cool with whatever went down. It’s you relinquishing the toxic chokehold of a certain person or situation on your soul. 

Resentment and old hurts will eat you up inside if you allow them to. Better to cast them off.

This act of forgiving is a gift you give yourself. It’s saying goodbye to what no longer serves you as you enter your golden years.  

Wear whatever you want

I’m serious.

You’ve earned the right to be quirky and proud of it. Relive your goth era. Go cottage core girlie. Nose ring? Do it up. Whatever your vibe is, embrace it. 

One of the perks of getting older is knowing the difference between style and fashion.

Foster connection

As you get older your risk of loneliness increases, so having a good support system in place and maintaining strong relationships is crucial for your mental health. 

Older people with strong social ties tend to be happier, healthier, and even live longer.

So where does that leave the introverts? Where we always are – content with limited social interaction. 

It’s about quality, not quantity.

“A privilege denied to many” 

Sometimes when the aging process is getting me down I like to remember the words of Mark Twain, who said, “Do not complain about growing old. It is a privilege denied to many.” 

As someone who’s lost many family members far too young, this resonates deeply. I almost feel an obligation to age gracefully for all of us. 

I hope to make them proud.

So savor the moment while you’re in it. Be kind to yourself. Make time to strengthen the bonds with your tribe. Do what makes you genuinely happy.

And be proud of where you are in your life journey. After all, now you’re a grown-up with lots of seniority just like you dreamed about as a kid!

Picture of Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden

Kathy Copeland Padden lives in a New England forest paradise with her cats, kid, and trusty laptop. She has been writing since age 8 and is such a pack rat she can back that up with physical evidence. Music is her solace and words are her drug, so her house is strewn with records and books. Watch your step.

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