The focus of this article is on connection. Connection with the world around us, the people that surround us and the activities we engage in. Connection is what nourishes us, keeps us alive with pleasure and helps us grow in the best possible ways.
Yet as we grow older, if we listen to mainstream media, we can start to believe that we become redundant if not obsolete with age instead of valuing the experience and knowledge which typically deepens as we spend more time on this planet.
Take as an example this article where readers who are over 40, are told to practice sounding younger on the phone, ditch the newspaper and rarely refer to one’s children (and never one’s grandchildren) among a list of many other suggestions. This we are told, will allow one to stay relevant in today’s job market, more so than a Princeton degree, hard work, loyalty and enviable references.
So much for appreciating one’s individuality and the wisdom gained through longevity. Rob Bell speaks to this in this session on The Joy of Growing younger. To understand the title I encourage you to listen to the whole segment, for an initial flavor read on:
“Where did we get the idea culturally that you reach a certain age and then you are done?… that we reach some moment of perfect hipsterness at about 22 ½ and then from there, it’s just sort of a long slow goodbye?”
This is the 2 min segment:
Rob goes on to tell many different stories which illustrate the beauty and gifts inherent in aging and then continues: “Can you imagine if they taught this stuff in school, now kids your 20s….your 30s…but your 50s and 60s that’s when stuff gets sexy.”
Depth of understanding
There are loads of role models that embody this. Listen to the richness of Nikki Giovani’s life and ideas here and tell me that you are not moved by this poet and distinguished professor at Virginia Tech who also happens to highly recommend life after 70. It seems engagement in life plays an important role in one’s perception of relevancy as we grow – older.
This certainly holds true for Jeanette Bertrand, a revered Quebec journalist, author, actor, producer, educator, and feminist. She credits loving relationships and projects as the secret behind her long, fulfilling life. At the age of 89, she published a book on aging; she wanted to share her perspective on aging as an old person.
She tells us that after retirement, we might have another 30 years to live, a whole other adult life! Yet many people work, longing for the day they can retire, a point at which they can finally relax and travel. But two years in, she begs the question then what? For Janette, there is no retirement, it’s about doing what she knows – writing and teaching. Having projects that challenge her, taking risks and spending hours completing her goals. This is what has kept her young despite her years. Her book on aging was published in 2016 and last fall she published her 11th book, a fiction novel treating the subject of bisexuality. Pretty hip for an old lady (her word – not mine ).
Celebrating greater understanding
Here’s to new discoveries and greater understandings that may enliven you, and make you feel more connected to the world around you as you grow through new projects and perhaps feel younger, as you let go of preconceived ideas and rules that no longer serve you.
As inspiration, I will be running a series of interviews with people of different ages who were sparked (or driven) to try something new, and the result. It’s working with this idea of how we can grow at any age, and the inherent wisdom found by venturing into the unknown. The first interview will be posted shortly.