Exploring the journey of aging and taking a good hard look at my own somewhat driven boomer mentality seems to be my favorite past-time these days. A good friend just had her 50th birthday last week and as I gleefully sent her well wishes on her celebration down in Costa Rica, I pondered the fact that 12 years have passed since I hit that milestone. I remember it as a truly joyous event, feeling pretty attractive in my own mind and full of hope and promise for what was to come. As I approached and passed my own 60th birthday two years ago, it was evident to me that this was going to be a more challenging passage.
As one crosses the threshold into the third stage of life, we seem to be ill prepared as to how to traverse the waters. As in many other cultures where a “rite of passage” to Elderhood seems to be both defined and respected, baby boomers hitting their sixties often unconsciously suffer from a kind of ageism that is deeply buried in the subconscious.
So what is Elderhood and is there a path we can follow to come to rest gently in its embrace? As I have said in previous columns, when you simply commit to beginning the journey, the answers do come. Firstly, there seems to be a call to Elderhood, an inner urging to transition to a new way of being. I remember when my children where transitioning from the interdependence of a life at home to the exciting, but scary world of living on their own and making decisions that were previously not required of them. It took me until the third child was experiencing this before I really began to understand what the process meant and how to best support their passage into independence. Who knew that as we enter the third stage of life, it involves a reversing back to interdependence and letting go of the attachment to productivity and doingness in a way that we have become very accustomed to.
The aging process seems to either bring out the best or the worst in people. The more the transition to Elderhood is resisted, the more bitterness and anger starts to overtake the unaware aging traveller. I think we have all seen people who are in their eighties, still in good health, but emanating a negativity that is draining to them and to those around them. They become more isolated and alone, furthering their self actualizing truth that life is hell.
William Bridges describes transition as not just a nice way to say change. It is the inner process through which people come to terms with a change, as they let go of the way things used to be and reorient themselves to the way that things are now. Transition represents a path to follow, rather than experiencing a “change barrier” that often prevents us from truly moving forward successfully. It requires first letting go of the inner connections you had to the way things were. The question that always helps you to shift your focus from change to transition is asking, “What is it time for me to let go of?”
Being an elder and being old seem to hold very different energies. A path to Elderhood engages a new intention of creativity, passion, service and a sharing of wisdom that leads one into a greater place of peace, humility and presence. It is not passive, but also not active in the same way that we have been in the past. It opens us to a greater experience of ourselves and the world around us as we become ordinary sages, aware of the need to distribute our wisdom and experience for the benefit of others. We reconnect in the spirit of interdependence and begin to accept it as a good thing.
One hundred years ago the average life expectancy was 47 years. Today at age 50, we have half our adult lives left to live in reasonably good health. Letting go of denial and embracing the transition into Elderhood is really quite full of a wonder that offers much opportunity for true fulfillment. Join me and other wanna be sages at an upcoming workshop called A Path To Elderhood Saturday, March 1 from 10 am to 4 pm. Cost $65 or $115 for couples. To register contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-863-9577. See Resources – Seminars & Training Tab on website for full PDF flyer for workshop details.