©Arlene R. Taylor PhD

“Do you like growing older?” The emphasis was definitely on the word like.

Momentarily startled, I turned toward the questioner, a program participant at the EduQuest Road Scholar event for which I was the main speaker. The question had been flung in my direction smack-dab in the middle of one of my presentations, so I replied, "Let me ponder that for a while and I'll get back to you." I'd never been asked that specific question before, at least not in so many words, so I have pondered it. A lot. And I've come up with a few musings.

There are some definite benefits to growing older. For example, I'm becoming kinder toward myself and others, and less critical. We all just have different brains and are doing the best we can with what we know. And I'm actually becoming my own best friend. I know myself better than anyone else. After all, I’ve been hanging around with me my entire life!

And whose business is it anyway if I choose to read a book on my Kindle or challenge my brain at Lumosity.com on my computer until 4 AM and then sleep until noon? It’s my business. I can dance with myself to those marvelous tunes of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s and, at the same time, if I wish to shed tears over a lost love, I can do that too.

I can walk the beach clad in a swimsuit that is stretched over a body whose parts are shifting. You know, you have everything you had in your youth, but none of it is exactly in the same place. And I will plunge into the waves with abandon if I choose to do so, despite pitying glances from the Hollywood set. They, too, will grow older. Maybe.

I know my brain can be a bit forgetful at times. But that’s nothing new. I’ve always been somewhat challenged by itty-bitty details. Besides, some things are just as well forgotten (e.g., the 16% I received on my high school trigonometry test, or the eighth-grade schoolmate who told me I was so stupid I’d never have a boyfriend or amount to anything at all, much less make any significant contribution in life). And eventually my brain does remember the really important things. Like how magnificent a sunset can be, how warming a child’s delight over a tiny kitten, how truly affirming dinner with a life-time best friend is, how thrilling glorious music; how awesome seeing new sights in other parts of the world, how amazing to connect with almost anyone on this planet using just the touch of a button; how humbling to contemplate the universe; and how rewarding to share brain-function information with others—especially when they have practically applied the knowledge gained and found life to have improved exponentially—and know your efforts have made a difference.

Sure, my heart has been broken a time or two (or more), or at least it has felt like it was being stomped on, squeezed out to dry, or hammered with a tire iron. How can a heart not crumple when it loses a loved one, watches a dear friend self-destruct, sees a child suffer, knows that a beloved pet has bitten the dust, or recognizes clear injustice—if not actual evil? But hearts can heal and mend much like a broken bone, the experience contributing strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is somewhat sterile and may never have known the relief of being imperfect.

I am blessed to have lived long enough to have identified silver hairs (among the hairs I have left), and to have watched my youthful laugh lines etched into deep grooves on my face. Now that I have learned the benefit of daily mirthful laughter, those groves are ever deepening. So many have died before their hair could turn silver, or they have never laughed or not laughed enough to have created a facial map of who they are. I am even grateful to have lived long enough to need (and to have received) a hip replacement (something that wasn’t available to ancestors of mine who wrestled with osteoarthritis), as well. So, we all liked to ice skate!

As I am growing older, I find it is easier to sustain a positive mindset. I worry less about what other people think and care more about what I think. I’ve stopped second-guessing myself. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong, and occasionally I make a mistake on purpose just to remind myself that I'm human and that's what humans do. Make mistakes. (Sometimes we even learn from them!) Life is so much less stressful this way.

So, in answer the question Do you like growing older?, the answer in the main is most of the time. I have seen too many people exit this planet before they understood the great freedom that comes with growing older. There are many things I so like about it. Not everything. But we typically give up something to get something. No, I won’t inhabit this planet forever, but I am aiming to reach age 100 or 120 with good mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual function. Meantime I shall continue to surround myself with smart, affirming people who are on a similar journey, who can laugh with me at the vagaries of life, and who are willing to just jump in and take this aging journey. After all, none of us has ever done it before, and we only get one shot at it. I, for one, want to make that shot count for something.

While I am still a living, breathing member of the human race on planet earth, I shall avoid wasting time lamenting what could have been or should have been or might have been; or in worrying about what was, what is, or what will be. And so I shall wear purple (if I feel like it), eat Tiramisu (if I want to), laugh at what tickles my funny bone (even if mine is the only brain laughing), drive an hour to spend an hour with my family-of-choice, and spend less time thinking about being nice (and more time thinking about being graciously functional).

Yes. Here’s to the joys of growing older, of soaring over the century mark like a shooting star against a cobalt sky! (Oh, and by the way, thank you for asking the question.)

Author's Bio: 

Refer to Arlene R. Taylor's website for bio, education, and speaking information.

Taylor is a brain-function specialist and founder/president of Realizations Inc, a non-profit corporation that engages in brain-function researchy and provides related educational resources.