Health and Wellness |

Seeing Life Through a Different Lens

September 9, 2019
man in the water with a surfboard

“Old age is a shipwreck.” – Charles de Gaulle. Most of us live in a world where ageing, and particularly ‘old age’ (whatever that is), is seen through a ‘deficit’ lens, a story of decline, loss, limitation, immobility and constraint. In this way of seeing things, care for the aged becomes a welfare task, helping the unfortunate improvise their way to a life and a lifestyle somehow commensurate with that lofty state enjoyed by the young. And which they have lost. Forever. Sadly.

But of course a lens is just that – a lens, a filter. We can look through a telescope through either end, and sometimes the telescope turns out to be a kaleidoscope! What if we were to set aside our ‘deficit’ lens and pick up an ‘asset’ one? What if ageing is not framed as a period of decline and loss, but a time of growth and gain? How might that effect our own experience of ageing, our story of ageing, and very importantly, the perceptions of our family and others around us?

No one would argue that ageing brings ‘deficit’ experiences, as bits of our bodies get cranky or rusty, and as the spectre of cognitive decline, perhaps dementia, looms like everyone’s most unwelcome guest. But this article is about perception and perspective.

The journalist Carl Honoré wrote the influential In Praise of Slow in 2004. You might have read about the ‘slow food’ movement, ‘slow cities’ (and even ‘slow sex’). That’s Carl.

‘Slow’ means taking things as they are meant to be taken, accepting the unfolding of nature and natural events at a natural pace, rather than all that hurry and hustle to get to that somehow-ever-elusive ‘goal’. The project is not about the destination, says Honoré and his millions of readers, but the journey.

Now he has published B(older): Making the Most of our Longer Lives, based on three years of travel and research, and he’s applying a different lens to ageing, a lens of possibility, potential and opportunity.

For a start, things are not as sad as they may seem. Many studies show that people over 60 report that they’re happier that they have been throughout their life course. Honoré  says, “that doesn’t take away from the fact that many people will be very unhappy, but the story we are told and that we tell ourselves is that everyone is unhappy. It’s always the worst-case scenario: that’s what we are contaminated by.”

Despite the obvious and expected challenges of ageing, what elements of the experience offer opportunities for growth – perhaps not physical growth, but social, cultural and spiritual growth? What might we do? Honoré suggests 12 strategies:

  1. If you think of yourself as old, you will be old
  2. Take yourself out of your comfort zone
  3. Try to stay healthy. Eat well and take lots of exercise
  4. Look for positive role models (Helen Mirren, anyone?)
  5. Seek to become the person you always wanted to be
  6. Don’t just maintain social connections with your own age group
  7. Be willing to let stuff go
  8. Ageing should be a process of opening rather than closing doors
  9. Honesty is the best policy
  10. Love and romance is not just the preserve of the young
  11. Ignore people who say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks
  12. Don’t pretend death isn’t coming

At Be we are grinding and polishing our ‘asset’ lens, growing our social support services, connecting people, exploring technologies for linking and bonding, all from a sure-footed base of compassionate, kind, friendly and flexible relationships both inside and outside the gate. We are growing a Wisdom Ecology!

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