A few days ago I spoke to residents at a large retirement community. Following the event, one of the attendees asked me to sign copies of my books for him. At first glance, he seemed to be the perfect role model for active aging. He was immaculately dressed, trim and fit, and walked with a spirit in his step. Soon though, he had grown serious as he told me about running hot water over his hands each morning to try to unlock the arthritis in his fingers. He also talked about dealing with the loss of his wife and pesky feelings of uselessness.
It seems something I had said had struck a chord with him. He wanted me to know that he appreciated the fact that I was honest about the tough realities of aging while also bringing a message hope and encouragement. “Most people want you to ignore the aches and pains, as if they don’t exist,” he said. “Thank you for acknowledging the challenges we face and for helping us to move forward. It helps to know that others understand.”
Some say that age is just mind over matter. To some degree, that’s true. A positive attitude certainly has much to do with aging well. But I have found that most older adults are anxious for their feelings to be validated. They need to know that the hard realities that often come with aging are not simply brushed away by those who think they know what it is to grow old.
It’s just something to think about.