Learning from Two Masters About What It Means to "Age Gracefully"

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • “Age gracefully.” How often do you hear those words? And what do they really mean? It’s really easy to fall into the trap of focusing on your aches and pains as your body ages and changes. Of course, America’s focus on youth doesn’t help. And one can mourn the many years that seem to have passed by so quickly. How do you develop a proactive focus on the future without getting depressed? I learned some good lessons during the last few weeks from two women who helped me understand what aging gracefully really means.

    About two weeks ago, I had lunch with Virginia. I had first met her professionally about 20 years ago and our paths kept crossing while we both worked in school districts. Our relationship evolved to a friendship about 10 years ago when I enrolled in a graduate program and learned that she was on the faculty. We started having lunch periodically to catch up on each other’s lives. About two weeks ago, she let me know that she would be retiring soon; I thought that was a perfect reason to schedule another lunch. 

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    As we talked at the restaurant, Virginia noted that she was now 70 years old. I did a double take because she looks and acts no different than the woman I initially met. Besides being physically the same size, she still displays a vitality and curiosity about life. After suffering a heart attack several years ago, she’s attentive to her health, regularly doing yoga and exploring both traditional and alternative medicine to determine what helps her remain the healthiest. Once she retires, Virginia plans to volunteer in her community and travel with her husband.

    Another friend, Brenda, is also vibrant and engaged at 53 years old. In fact, upon meeting her you’d think she's much younger and would never guess that she has five grandchildren. I met Brenda 10 years ago when we worked for the same organization.  Since that time, Brenda has continued to recreate herself. When I met her, she was an administrative assistant; since then, she’s become a meeting planner and is starting to be a trainer in Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits for Effective People. Brenda’s also attending classes to obtain her associate’s degree and is active in her church. And Brenda also is committed to her health – she regularly exercises, watches her diet and takes time for herself.

    So what lessons about aging gracefully did I learn from these two women? Basically, the lesson I learned is that you shouldn’t focus so much on age. Instead, spend time with people you truly enjoy, no matter if they’re older or younger than you. Remain engaged in life through new experiences and giving back to others. Commit to your health through exercise and diet, as well as the medical treatments and experiences that you feel make a difference for you. Do what you love. Be thankful for what you have. And remain passionate about life.

Published On: April 06, 2010