Ageing gracefully or ageless grace?
“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” ~ Douglas MacArthur
“We are not victims of aging, sickness, and death. These are part of scenery, not the seer, who is immune to any form of change. This seer is the spirit, the expression of eternal being.” ~ Deepak Chopra
Great thinkers throughout time reveal that being old is very much about your attitude or state of mind. I’ve seen people in their 20s who seem old and others in their 90s who appear youthful.
Older Aussies might be whingeing themselves into an early grave, according to new research linking life-expectancy with attitude. Apparently, approaching old age with negative expectations can directly affect how long you live (Aussie seniors suffering from serious case of self-loathing, The Morning Bulletin, 25 October 2012).
We all want to look and feel young. Some turn to drugs and supplements seeking the elixir of life. The latest is Resveratrol, a molecule found in red wine and now available as a dietary supplement; although, its benefits are probably more from the placebo effect than anything else (The Conversation).
Others are looking to something else; a spiritual viewpoint. This is decidedly positive, as Australian researchers suggest, “Although we are largely a secular society, spiritual care should not be seen as an ‘optional extra’ for older people”. The search for meaning in later life becomes more urgent. One important view of ageing is of a spiritual journey” (Spiritual care and ageing in a secular society).
And just this month, an even more conclusive study published in the Journal of Gerontology stated that although it was clear that personal control declines with age, they discovered that it declines less in those with high religious commitment. And here’s the interesting thing. Those that relied on God to help them control their lives, knowing that ‘all things are possible when I work together with God’ – this God-mediated control not only increased with age but partially compensated for losses in personal control. Given the significant impact that declining personal control has on mental health (and possibly physical health as well) this has very positive health benefits.
A thirst for fun, adventure, fresh achievements and new knowledge should be part of every life-stage. However, it seems that simply aiming to age gracefully or even dis-gracefully may be missing many of the benefits of gaining a more spiritual viewpoint.
Spiritual practises, religion and near death experiences such as Dr Eban Alexander’s affirm that we continue on after the death of the body.
This knowledge “… will master either a desire to die or a dread of the grave, and thus destroy the great fear that besets mortal existence,” explains Mary Baker Eddy, an early researcher into the connection between consciousness, spirituality and health.
This realisation brings an incomparable peace and shows in ageless grace in later years.
We can only benefit from medical science and religion concurring on the need to allay the fears associated with ageing and death. As they continue to work together, it seems fairly certain that ‘ageless grace’ will become more and more achievable for us all.
Kay Stroud speaks from experience in the mind-body field, especially as it relates to spirituality and health. She’s a regular blogger for APN newspapers, and also represents Christian Science to media and government in Northern Australia.