Wayne Johnson, MBA, CFP®, AEP®, CAP®, Financial Planner
August 19, 2022
As I approach the completion of my 60th trip around the sun, the topic of aging has become more prominent in my thoughts.
At about age 30, we begin to accumulate evidence of our decline and eventual mortality whether it is our physical capabilities or mental acuity. It begins subtly with an occasional notice of something you realize isn’t the way it used to be.
And then progresses to full-blown indications where you say, “I am getting old!” How about when you notice that many of your doctors, co-workers, and social connections are younger than you?! The rude awakening continues!
As I have progressed through life, I’ve observed that life unfortunately is one long series of losses. We observe and experience the death of friends and family on a more frequent basis. We may be assisting aging parents with their health and mobility issues, all the while watching them decline. Our own health may be failing. Our appearance is not what it once was. We battle weight, wrinkles, gray hair, a receding hairline, diminished athletic ability … you name it. It seems that aging produces one humiliation after the other.
But … these experiences have led me to a sense of humility. And that’s a good thing! These losses happen to everyone who lives long enough. I might as well accept it, embrace humility, and age with grace. That’s my intention, anyway. I will simply endeavor to take good care of the capabilities that I have remaining and use them to live life to the fullest.
I’ve been blessed throughout my life to have relationships with individuals who are great examples of people who have aged gracefully. My parents have demonstrated what it looks like to age with dignity and courage. They have provided a model and have inspired me to positively embrace the aging process as one of my more important life goals.
A number of years ago, I would not have expected this from my late father. He was a rather old-school guy – very independent and a little hardheaded – okay, pretty hardheaded. In fact, my brother and I had begun to have conversations to divide up the hard discussions we expected to have with him over the coming years. Dad found that humorous and gratifying. Then he began to surprise us. He aged gracefully. He voluntarily got rid of his ladders and let his commercial driver’s license lapse. After a lifetime of teaching me all about horses, he traded his horses for ponies. He set a great example for us to follow!
Being humble and aging gracefully allows us to make the hard decisions on our own terms. No one likes to be told what they HAVE to do.
After my dad passed away, Mom was still living in their large house on their acreage. It is a wonderful property that is filled with memories for several generations of my family. Mom began to wonder what to do with the acreage. It took time, money, and attention to maintain the buildings and pasture. We could tell it wore on her unnecessarily, and the property no longer served the things that were important to her – like getting Dad out of the house.
Our advice to her was to do what she felt was best, but to do it early enough that she could do it on her own terms. She did that and moved into a townhome arrangement in her community about four years ago. We are all in agreement that this move was exactly what needed to happen, that it happened at just the right time, and for all the right reasons. Her ability to engage in this major decision has led to a more fulfilling life for her and has reduced her family’s concern for her wellbeing.
The Younger Generation
A final thought on aging gracefully relates to my relationships with the younger generations. I really don’t want to be that curmudgeonly old guy who thinks everything was better “back in the day.” It wasn’t better, nor was it worse, but it was strikingly different. Our memories seem to focus on the good in those bygone times, overlooking the fears and trials that also existed. That aspect of how the mind works is a true blessing of life, especially when we don’t let it ruin our view of today.
In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, an older male character utters the line, “Youth is wasted on the wrong people!” I honestly don’t believe this, but I identify with the sentiment. I admit that I am somewhat envious of the energy, optimism, and confidence displayed by my children and younger co-workers. But those are not the attributes that I should envy. I can still choose them for myself if I want.
Where I should really be envious of the next generation is in the lifetime available to them to create experiences, to make mistakes from which to learn, and to recover and try again. Grand accomplishments are great, but they really don’t mean much without struggle. Think about it; throughout history and across cultures, nobody becomes a hero without making a comeback, struggling, or overcoming adversity. I admire opportunities young people have to overcome.
Thanks for engaging the thoughts of someone who really is trying to do the best they can with where they are in life. I hope this article has been thought provoking, useful, and entertaining for you. Here’s to aging gracefully!