Seniors on the Coast article (March 2015)
It can be said that your age is a chronological fact, a number, but growing old is mental, cultural and habitual and, in our Western culture, the socialisation of negative norms for growing old are very entrenched.
I’m interested in this, because my husband, who is 12 years my senior, is turning 55 this year. I was beginning to tease him and roast his impending ‘getting old’, busting out all the usual clichés, joking about how he can get cheaper senior’s insurance and that he’ll need to leave to go live in a gated community etc. Thankfully I had sense to pause and listen to my assumptions and judgements, and stop myself.
“Hang on” I said to myself, “I have a vested interest in keeping my husband young, healthy, vital and active. I not going to buy into this mindset, I need to support and encourage an attitude – indeed an expectation – of wellness and healthy longevity for him into ageing!”
There are many examples of implicit ageist stigma in our culture and they can be seen in quite benign things such as the notion of a ‘retirement age’, which suggests a use by date to “retire” from meaningful work. Take the existence of seniors discounts…just look at the languaging…you are being discounted and valued less! Even the segmentation of 55+ into separate communities, and then later even more further out of sight, out of mind, in nursing homes, can be seen as an insidious side-lining away from mainstream living.
Not to mention the usual depiction in the media and entertainment, of the silly old ‘biddy’ who acts ignorant of technology, or confused at how things are done “these days” and looking quite frail or bent over. And lastly, even more destructive, is the pervasive fear of, and normalisation of, dementia and Alzheimer’s as a ‘natural’ and inevitable consequence of ageing!
However, I believe this current generation entering the 55+, retirement and third age is probably the most healthy, most educated, most worldly and cashed up generation of seniors ever in the history of humanity, and a not so quiet evolution is taking place which will ultimately shift the balance of perceptions back to a healthier picture of ageing. To aid this evolution, a revolution must happen to reject the old paradigms that are embedded in our financial, social and cultural traditions.
Do you notice how time is speeding up as you get older? Well that is what happens when we have less ‘new’ and exciting experiences in our lives. The routine and habitual blend into one and you are less likely to notice the newness of each day, and then suddenly a year has passed!
Healthy longevity and wellness into ageing requires mindset and cultural change and, yes, new habits. It requires a refusal to play and conform to limiting social and cultural norms. It is about believing you can be healthy and well for as long as you want; it is about positively envisioning and actioning a healthy lifestyle; it is about remaining vital and productive; and it is about inviting the new, the novel and the “never befores” into your experience.
It is also about preparing the body from as early on as possible with wellness habits and practices for healthy longevity by being active, looking after your nutritional foundational health, taking the vitamins and supplements that support the repair and maintenance of your cells and body systems, and most importantly, believing, speaking and acting in anticipation of continued health and wellness.
And for those like me, following close behind my more senior beloved, it is about not dreading the ageing experience but welcoming it. It’s about being heart, mind, body and soul ready to walk that path with grace and love. I will welcome the wisdom. I will welcome the freedom. I will welcome and expect and great health. I will welcome my seat at the head of the table! And if can successfully grow my hair down to my bum…..then I will welcome it to be gloriously grey too!
Much love. Sarah
Sarah Tolmie is a life & love coach, therapist and consultant. Her practice focuses on helping individuals, couples and families navigate, grow and heal through all their life & love events, changes and challenges – including love, marriage & family relationships; success, health & wellness; and grief & loss, as well as coping with illness, dying and death. Sarah is also a Life & Love Celebrant, and Pastoral Care Practitioner, creating profound and meaningful ceremonies for all life & love events. In her practice Sarah’s focus is on maintaining a heart-based, love-led, laughter-filled and meaning-making life. Sarah is also an Isagenix consultant for health, weight management and longevity. You can visit her website new.sarahtolmie.com.au and receive her Daily Love updates on her Facebook page at Sarah Tolmie – Life & Love.