Getting older can feel like ducking a steady stream of blows—hits to our looks, career, relationships and sex lives. Here, four tricks to stay positive and make aging work for you.
Getting older can feel like ducking a steady stream of blows—hits to our looks, career, relationships and sex lives, and a shuffled deck of players and roles within our family, friends and communities. These losses are an affront to the upward trajectory we imagined. Didn't we all picture ourselves sailing into the future on a wave of shiny successes?
As we age, the identities of a lifetime are challenged from without and within. The rearview mirror is cruel. We all remember the first time we noticed the softening jawline or the pudge in the change room. Aging is like a bad selfie reflecting back a stranger. We carry the image of ourselves at some mystical moment of our youth, and the mirror betrays us.
We need a mass adjustment of attitude to help rebrand aging as desirable. In North America, where we grow older in greater isolation from our clans, we use money to "solve" aging: trainers and coaches, diets, the plucking and pruning beauty regimes that lead to ever-more extreme interventions to turn back the clock.
And, of course, there is always hope in a jar, in the form of pricey creams spiked with the latest anti-aging miracle, from bee pollen to dragon's blood to snail slime. Of course, healthy habits are critical, and looking good leads to feeling good. But it shouldn't come at the cost of our confidence in ourselves as to who we are.
Feeling good comes from the inside, and that needs to come from a societal shift. For all our progress, it is frustrating that we once did things right in this human race.
In ancient Greece and Rome, elders were always venerated. Native North Americans passed on respect for the aging process, and elders passed on traditions and advice. The Confucian influence in China and Korea created filial traditions that many Eastern societies respect to this day. Some two-thirds of Japanese elders live with their children, and there is even a Respect for the Aged Day. Elders are often the leaders of extended South Asian families.
And Mediterranean and Latin cultures also centre around integrated family units and who share duties. African-American traditions celebrate death as a homecoming, and this imbues respect for age.
But times are changing everywhere, not necessarily for the better. France had to pass a "keep-in-touch" law in 2004 mandating that children check on their aging parents. A similar Elderly Rights Law was adopted in China in 2013 that puts urban kids who don't go home to visit their families in rural areas at risk of being sued.
Our experience of aging is very much a function of whether the society we live in views aging as a positive or negative thing. But there are tricks and habits we can use to inject positivity into all aspects of life, and we spoke to experts on how to rewrite our own aging narratives.
Here, four ways to give aging the finger
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