“Wisdom is a living stream, not an icon preserved in a museum. Only when we find the spring of wisdom in our own life can it flow to future generations.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
My specialty is working with older adults. I came into this field when I began my own aging journey over ten years ago while in my late 50’s. I’ve come to really love this stage of life. Older adults have such presence and depth. You might hear someone over the age of sixty say. “I just don’t care what others think of me anymore.” This is because of both biological changes as well as experience. We begin to care less about what people think of us and more about what we think.
How do you feel about growing older?
Like most people, we may be afraid of the unknown! After all, how can one really comprehend “the end?” But if we hang onto the illusion that our lives will just go on indefinitely—that shows a lack of acceptance about life. The experience of aging threatens that illusion and wakes us up!
How are we to make sense of it all?
Denial of one’s own aging is so prevalent in our society. How can we accept and even embrace our own physical changes?
That is the challenge presented to us in beginning this aging journey. What are we to make of this aging experience? Our elder years can be the best years of our lives, but how?
When we discover our ability to befriend our inner-younger selves and bring warmth and understanding, we often find the acceptance of ourselves which we’ve searched for our entire lives. As David Bowie says, “Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”
Finding that acceptance in ourselves enables us to reach out to others, both younger and older. This is how the wisdom of the elder connects to younger generations while opening their eyes to themselves and the scope of human life.
Longing for deeper connections
Elders are seeking to recognize and prioritize what is important and what endures in life, including what outlives the self. They long for deeper connections to themselves and those close to them.
They are also coming to discover what has heart and meaning. They need to heal the emotional wounds still holding them back and cultivate self-compassion, emotional honesty, patience, and devotion to truth.
Invitation to Step Into the Journey
Step into this journey and embrace your capacity for on-going change in this way:
- Explore self-limiting beliefs about aging
- Develop self-compassion to cope more effectively with the stresses of aging
- Discover and reflect on what has given heart and meaning to your life and how that informs your intentions for living
- Enhance connection and reduce isolation from others by understanding your shared humanity
- Reduce fear and increase acceptance in the presence of death and dying
- Create a new vision for aging
So many have succumbed to the illusion that there’s nothing to be gained from aging. It’s no wonder when current practices don’t really focus on the value of aging, only on the problems. However, there is plentiful research from the fields of psychology, gerontology, and spirituality that recognizes how elders in many family groups contribute to the survival and growth of the species. It is a tragedy for an elder in today’s world not be able to find that value for themselves.
Aging is indeed challenging and requires our strongest inner core to come forward to help us survive – and thrive – during these life stages. However, it is also a time of great opportunity for spiritual, emotional and psychological growth. Elders are yearning to engage in dialogue together on these issues. They are looking for guidance, connection, and community to help fortify themselves for their aging years.
About the author: Rev. Catherine Dockery, MA, is a People House minister and a trained facilitator in conscious aging, nonviolent communication and resonant healing of trauma. She has an MA in Public Administration and BA in Communications both from the University of Colorado at Denver. Catherine started The Center for Conscious Aging in 2015 where she conducts workshops, personal coaching and support groups for older adults helping them to understand their developmental changes and transform their lives. She has 10 years of experience in individual and group facilitation and presents on aging topics throughout Colorado. To learn more about Catherine’s services please visit www.centerforconsciousaging.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org