I was talking with a friend recently about the perks of being the age we are now (I’m 46 as of this writing, he’s in his early 50s). Contrary to what our culture preaches, getting older is not inherently depressing or awful. In fact, research is showing that older people are actually happier!
Don’t get me wrong – youth can be fun, too. It’s not a competition over which age group is “best.” I thought it would be valuable, though, to share some of the positives about growing older, which are often ignored in favor of complaints about the wrinkles, aches & pains, and empty nests.
Here are my top ten, in no particular order:
More free time. My kids are now in their late teens, and I love it. They both still live at home currently (Dryst commutes to college), and so I still get to see them a lot, but they are so much more independent. This means I have more time to do the things I love, and to devote to my callings. I can now take off for a few days without needing childcare – and the kids take care of the four-leggers. Win-win!
Deeper relationships. I love how strong my close relationships are at this point. We know each other well, we’re beyond the point of needless drama, and it’s so lovely to spend time with beloveds who really care about me. I’m also relishing my deeper relationship with myself. I’ve learned what I need, and self-care is an intrinsic part of my life now. I know that I’m worthy of nurturing, and that when I take care of my needs, I’m much more joyful and able to give to others.
Less people-pleasing. You know all those memes and articles about “women of a certain age having no f*$!s left to give?” True story. I used to be a huge people-pleaser, fretting about my appearance, my words, and how I came across to, well, pretty much everyone I encountered. It was exhausting. Now I’m more comfortable with being myself and not worrying about what others think. Not everyone will like you. So what? By being authentic, you’ll attract the right folks, the ones who love your unique being. The ones who appreciate your cackling wildly in the grocery story, wearing faery face paint, and dancing even when someone might be watching.
Letting go of stress. Who’s got time or energy to stress over every little thing? As you get older, you realize that time is precious and that there’s no need to waste it on the things you can’t control. When those little things go wrong, like running out of heating oil or dropping the casserole on the floor, more often than not I laugh. Or swear creatively, then laugh. Life’s too short to freak out all the time.
Appreciation of the little things. Along the same lines, it comes more naturally to me as I get older to really appreciate all the wonderful blessings in my life. Purring cats, good books, hot chai tea with non-dairy milk, sunshine, smiles, being loved. These are the things that show up in my gratitude lists, over and over. Life is full of delightful small pleasures that add up to an extra dose of happiness each day.
More practice. Are you familiar with Malcom Gladwell’s idea that it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to achieve mastery? Think about how much practice you’ve now had at being yourself! And if you have particular passions that you practice regularly, as you get older you’ll be getting better and better at those things. When you have a spiritual practice, achieving mastery in it also means that its effects on your life will be more powerful – like the way a regular practice of meditation helps you be more centered and aware in other areas of your life.
Better connection to your true purpose. Even if you ignore your intuition for many years, eventually your purpose will find a way to make itself known. As we get older, we often realize that we need to make changes that will support us in following our passions. I thought I was maybe getting a late start by becoming a published author when I was 43, but I’ve since heard about many well-known authors who were on a similar timeline.
Lifelong learning. It seems like once we’re out of the education system, we feel more free to learn about things we really feel passionate about. When you’re not obligated to memorize facts and take tests on things you don’t really care about, learning new things is such fun! I found out recently that community college is free for senior citizens in my state. I’ll so be taking advantage of that in a couple of decades!
A wider perspective. As you get older, it’s easier to see the arc of life’s changes. A friend was lamenting how a young woman in her life was so timid and shy that she was letting herself be a bit of a doormat. My perspective? “She’ll get over it. I was like that at her age, and I grew and changed. She will, too. She’s still learning.” That perspective extends to oneself and one’s own journey, as well. If you’re still here on the Earth plane, you’re still learning.
A strong community. The friendships and relationships you build and nurture over time become stronger with shared experience. Sure, some friends will come and go, but who knows? They might come back again. Others will come into your life as you learn new things and follow your passions. Your community will grow stronger as you get older, especially if you’re open to friendships with people of all ages.
Please don’t assume that getting older is a bad thing. When you focus on joy, gratitude, and purpose, your happiness will expand. Ignore the stereotypes, and continue to grow and learn as you age. You’ll love it!