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Positives about Aging

Posted 3/13/2014

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  One of the very few positives about a breast cancer (or any kind of cancer) diagnosis is that it pretty much eliminates any issues we may have had about aging. Instead of bemoaning our gray hair and sagging eye lids and broader waists, we now think "Hurray! I am 60..." (or 55 or 65 or whatever) Birthdays become moments to celebrate and be grateful for; older never looked better.

  Even without this reminder of mortality, most of the world accepts the cliche about "older but wiser." It seems obvious that more life experience gives us the chance to have more to appreciate, to reflect upon, to apply to our current circumstances. This seems congruent with the other common cliche about "youth is wasted on the young." I remember my mother remarking on the universal beauty of a group of young men, and my wondering what in the world she was talking about. To my adolescent eyes, some were handsome,  but others surely were not. She saw the spring of their steps and the tight glow of their skin and their seemingly limitless futures.

  This is a delightful essay from The New York Times about being older and wiser. In my just-concluded retreat, we spent a few hours journaling, and one of the prompts was "If I had a second chance..." The common thread in our responses was something like: "I have learned not to sweat the small stuff." This is part of our older wisdom, even more highlighted by cancer.

  Here is the beginning and then a link to read more:

The Science of Older and Wiser

Since ancient times, the elusive concept of wisdom has figured prominently in philosophical and religious texts. The question remains compelling: What is wisdom, and how does it play out in individual lives? Most psychologists agree that if you define wisdom as maintaining positive well-being and kindness in the face of challenges, it is one of the most important qualities one can possess to age successfully — and to face physical decline and death.
Vivian Clayton, a geriatric neuropsychologist in Orinda, Calif., developed a definition of wisdom in the 1970s,
when she was a graduate student, that has served as a foundation for research on the subject ever since. After
scouring ancient texts for evocations of wisdom, she found that most people described as wise were decision
makers. So she asked a group of law students, law professors and retired judges to name the characteristics of a wise person. Based on an analysis of their answers, she determined that wisdom consists of three key components: cognition, reflection and compassion.


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  • Patricia Hogan said:
    3/13/2014 10:23 AM

    Thank you for posting this essay! A truly wonderful read as I approach my 70th birthday.