Almost forty years ago, I was a young, pregnant geriatric social worker in a 300-bed long term care, not-for-profit, facility. At that time, there were five other young social workers all having babies within months of one another. In addition to having the common connection of entering motherhood as working women at the same time, we also shared the belief that stay-at-home moms didn’t really “get” us. Why we chose to work rather than stay at home full-time with our beautiful babies. Whether or not other moms really thought that, this shared belief (and, admittedly, some pangs of guilt) drew us together.
This group of now four women continue to get together once a month for the last 37 years! We called ourselves “The Mothers Group” and we believe we are a truly remarkable bunch.
How to be happy in older age (from someone who’s there)
Recently, in celebration of my 67th birthday, we met for lunch. The topic of discussion was not babies, children, husbands, work, or retirement. It was the process of aging. And not the downsides of growing older that can happen like arthritis, loss of independence, or worries about financial stability. Rather, it was a spirited, uplifting discussion about the best parts of growing older. Linda said, “For me, the best part of aging is not keeping people in my life that don’t make me feel good.” Everyone unequivocally agreed. I thought about this on my ride home (we live in four different counties in New Jersey) and considered the other “freeing” aspects of aging well.
- A happier outlook. Studies show that older people are faring far better mentally and emotionally than younger adults during the pandemic and in life in general. This is probably due to better coping skills, more acceptance of who we are and what life brings us.
- GRANDCHILDREN! Yes, just three weeks prior to this birthday, I became a grandmother for the first time and everything they say about it is true! To be a parent and watch a son parent his child is a blessing and joy beyond words. You know what I mean if you have been so blessed.
- More time for family and friends. I seek out the ones who make me feel good. For me, a key aspect of aging well.
- The ability to pursue new hobbies or fulfill old dreams I had no time for. I swore to be cliché and learn Mahjong, only to find I had missed nothing! My husband took up painting and he loves it—and is remarkably good at it.
- I have more time to spend on my charity and volunteer work. I have made new relationships, apply old skills in new ways, and do good—which makes me feel good.
- I try not to sweat the small stuff and look at the big picture. I feel as if my priorities and values are more clearly aligned with my perception of self and I have nothing to prove to anyone else. There are few things more important to maintaining senior health than a good sense of self!
- I don’t need to buy clothes. (well, not often)
- I accept my double chin. (I don’t necessarily like it, but I do accept it.)
- I can go to bed early unapologetically.
- I can stay home on a Saturday night without shame.
- I can go to the movies at the senior discount rate, proudly.
- I make fewer major life decisions and spend less time pondering what will be. What will I do in life? Will I be happy? How many kids will I have? Will I be loved? Will I love, etc. Been there, done that.
- I feel a sense of accomplishment for my achievements over my personal and professional lives.
- I have given up on keeping up with technology—and I don’t care!
- I have less regrets than I did at twenty something.
- I have stable friendships that give meaning to my life. I definitely feel this a big contributor to a happy, healthy long life.
Looking forward to what’s ahead
Many people have a fear of getting older, but if you want to take advice from an older person, it doesn’t have to be so scary. In fact, as you can see, there are lots of things to look forward to on your way to aging well.
Perhaps I am like the old song from the play GIGI, “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore.” But, frankly, there is just one thing that does give me pause about aging: I am always the oldest person in any BAYADA office I visit! Oh, and by the way, when did doctors, teachers, and police officers become so young?