"We are discovering priceless opportunities to use our wisdom and gifts, honed over a lifetime, in service to self, family, community and the planet."
by Joyce Eckes and Lucia Leck
"The trouble is that old age is not interesting until one gets there, a foreign country with an unknown language to the young, and even to the middle-aged. I wish now that I had found out more about it."-May Sarton
When we were growing up in a farming community, powerful images and beliefs about aging were subtly ingrained in us. Old age happened. We did not see people actively try to prevent it. To some, it seemed the approach to aging was to prepare financially and then just keep doing until one could do no more. Old age was viewed as a time of decline and loss, in mind and body. As children, we were taught to respectfully listen to the stories that were told over and over by the older folks lamenting the past. Old age was a gradual disengagement from life with the underlying message that the best years were behind you.
As we aged, we became more and more aware of the youth-oriented culture in which we lived. We found ourselves asking, "What will it be like for us when we get old? Who do we want to become? How do we want to be? Is there any value to being old?" We realized we wanted to leave behind the cultural beliefs and practices that asked us to ward off or deny aging. Those myths and stereotypes led us to believe there was no value to being old and as we aged, we had little to contribute. Deep in our bones, those beliefs didn't speak to us. They were disempowering and conveyed negative images of aging.
We chose instead a new approach called conscious aging, where mindful choices and intentions deepened our understanding of who we are and why and how we matter. We live now out of a growth dynamic; one that affirms our life experience and ongoing contributions rather than diminishment and decline. We are discovering priceless opportunities to use our wisdom and gifts, honed over a lifetime, in service to self, family, community and the planet. Conscious aging broadens and deepens our vision for purpose and meaning. It invites us, again and again, to continually live life from an ever-deepening understanding and never-ending exploration of aging as a gift, a time rich with potential.
Joyce Eckes and Lucia Leck are sisters, educators and spiritual directors who facilitate workshops and retreats on conscious aging and mindful eldering.