Most of us can list the challenges of aging. But there are some pretty cool benefits, too.
In my twenties, I began to long aloud for my sixtieth birthday. I told friends, roommates, and family members (often with a long, low sigh), “I can’t wait until I turn sixty!”
In those arduous years of trying to find myself, friends, a spouse, and a career, I longed for the imagined golden, settled, carefree age of sixty when I could look back and see how my life had turned out.
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When my sixtieth birthday arrived in the spring of 2021, a time when COVID-19 still reigned, I could not celebrate with a large party. My introverted-self did not mind. But I did celebrate over texts and emails and phone calls with many of those people who knew me in my twenties when I had declared with zeal, “I can’t wait to turn sixty!”
Although turning sixty did not announce the carefree living I had imagined it would, it did bring gifts of perspective, gratitude, and contentedness with the personality God gave me.
At sixty I could look back and see God’s gentle, firm, loving hand carrying me though heartache, health issues, job challenges, friendships, marriage, and child-rearing.
At sixty I could thank God for hanging on to me, again and again, when my external and internal worlds seemed to spin in crazy configurations I did not understand.
At sixty I finally began to embrace my introverted personality as a gift from God, not a curse. (Yes, I learn slowly.)
Now I wonder what gifts turning seventy will bring. And eighty.
Whatever the birthday, I will hang on to these words, initially spoken to the descendants of Jacob, but ones that still resonate with my maturing self: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:4, NIV )
May you too know the joy of sixty and seventy and eighty. Maybe even ninety!
What gifts are you discovering as you age into your sage years? We’d love to hear from you!
On behalf of the entire TheSageForum.com team,
Aging Has Its Advantages. Really!
by Judy Allen
Aging is expected, natural, and inevitable, yet it sneaks up on us. I still feel like I’m thirty years old, even though my body reminds me that I’m over twice that age.
If you google advantages of aging, you’ll find things like improved emotional intelligence, time to pursue neglected dreams, enjoying grandchildren, and learning new things, among others. There is enough written about those advantages – google to your heart’s content.
But there are other kinds of advantages that don’t always come up first in a Google search. As we age, we accumulate a lifetime of experience and a storehouse of knowledge, which can combine to bless those in our world with wisdom.
Your life is full of unique experiences. When we look at the successes, happiest moments, wonderful opportunities, and even the frightening days or painful events, there is no doubt that they have brought us to who and where we are today.
When I was a child, I loved to read and write stories, but somewhere along the line, that interest was dulled. I’ve always been a reader and a learner, but I didn’t pursue writing until much later. If I had it to do over again, I’d get a degree in creative writing or journalism, but God led me to writing later in life and the stops along the way have created a unique story.
How did your upbringing influence your adult life? What kind of career(s) did or do you have? What were your greatest traveling experiences? How about hobbies, interests, unique skills? What is your family like?
There are infinite permutations of experiences, and you are the only one with yours.
I’m always impressed, and feel slightly inadequate, when I hear the credentials of an older individual who is well educated, had successful careers, and gathered much knowledge. But then I realize that every one of us has invested time to obtain knowledge in unique areas. Amazingly, people invest years, lifetimes, zeroing in on an insect or obscure animal or one single event in history. The knowledge that humans have acquired is astonishing.
Arthur C. Brooks’s recent book, From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life, refers to British psychologist Raymond Cattell’s research describing two types of intelligence: fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is learning and problem solving and it peaks in 30s or 40s, but “Crystallized intelligence…tends to increase with age through one's forties, fifties, and sixties - and does not diminish until quite late in life, if at all.” (p. 27). We may not be as quick to solve problems as we were twenty years ago, but we will continue to get better at employing our storehouses of knowledge.
Brooks says, “When you are young, you have raw smarts. When you are old, you have wisdom.” (p.27) And society needs our wisdom.
It’s not clear that wisdom always comes with age. Studies suggest there are other factors involved, such as education and personality type. However, we know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and as a Christian matures, I believe her wisdom will also continue to develop.
We have all been through some rough times in life. I had cancer in my late 40s and a stroke in my 50s and learned that I’m not as impervious to health problems as I had imagined. Of course, I knew that, but experience made it very real. I now get regular physicals and never neglect a yearly mammogram. My experience raising children taught me that it’s best to let them confront problems and work out solutions for themselves. I’m sure I read that in a parenting book, but it wasn’t until I tried, and failed, to give them a problem-free childhood that it became wisdom.
Call it crystallized intelligence, a storehouse of knowledge combined with experience, but if you are paying attention in the second half of life, you have wisdom.
Contribute and Celebrate
Brooks argues that when our fluid intelligence begins to decline, we should transition into areas in which crystalized intelligence is an advantage. Many people teach or mentor, but there are other ways to contribute. I encourage you to pray and investigate how you can best use your wisdom for God’s glory.
We are each unique individuals with hard won and expanding experience, knowledge, and wisdom. Celebrate that. You are who God has created you to be, and if you’re like me, you are more aware of and comfortable with who you are.
Aging can be fraught with trouble, but it’s not without blessings. Remember your unique experiences, knowledge, and ever-expanding wisdom, and celebrate! Then decide how to contribute the gift of wisdom God has given you.
Additional resources on the subject of aging sagely
What an Expert on Aging Would Tell His Younger Self About Growing Old
Writer April Yamasaki Recommends Two Books About Aging Faithfully
TED Talk Speaker Ingrid Fetell Lee Discusses the Possibilities for Joyful Aging
Beauty in the Fullness of Time
Two Sage Forum contributors have penned books that tackle the topic of aging well: Dorothy Greco’s Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start With You and Becoming Sage: Cultivating Meaning, Purpose, and Spirituality in Midlife by Michelle Van Loon.
What We’re Reading and Watching Right Now
[BOOK] There are plenty of books packed with counsel for new parents, but until now, there hasn’t been a guide to navigating the years when our kids move into adulthood. Finding Our Way Forward: When the Children We Love Become Adults by Melanie Springer Mock offers a thoughtful, honest, compassionate exploration of the changes and challenges both parents and young adult children navigate during the “launch years”. (MV)
[BOOK] The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce tells the story of newly retired Harold Fry, who goes to send a letter to a dying friend but instead spontaneously decides to walk hundreds of miles to deliver the letter by hand. As he walks, Harold becomes privy to the poignant stories of those he meets and slowly Harold’s own heart-breaking story is revealed. (RC)
[VIDEO] It’s the first time I’ve binge watched anything, but I wanted to view the three series of Happy Valley (streaming on Amazon Prime, AppleTV, Sky Go and other platforms) before the final episode was aired. The language is very strong (think Die Hard plus!), and the violence and subject matter is extremely graphic but Sally Wainwright’s writing is brilliant and actresses Sarah Lancashire and Siobhan Finneran are magnificent making Happy Valley a showcase of middle-aged female talent! (RC)
[BOOK] Rembrandt Is In The Wind: Learning to Love Art Through The Eyes of Faith by Russ Ramsey fascinated me with its stories of famous artists and works of art. I discovered that some of the world's most famous painters of biblical scenes had horrid reputations. I learned about a famous art heist and how one artist used an optical device to paint his very realistic paintings. Yet the book delves deeper than a love of art. It also talks about how a love of beauty can inspire a love of God and how certain works of art can draw us deeper into the biblical story they depict. A very worthwhile read! (SF)
[VIDEO] In the 2019 film Coda, Patrick Stewart plays a concert pianist at the end of his career who struggles with stage fright. A young journalist, who met him years earlier as a pianist in a masterclass, befriends him and this intergenerational friendship inspires him. The music in the movie is gorgeous. The story has some very sad moments but also embraces the hope that age does not have to mean the end of the things you love. (SF)
[BOOK] Life Reimagined, by Barbara Hagerty. Hagerty is a meticulous reporter and deftly weaves personal stories with many facts and figures about midlife. She interviews experts in sociology, psychology, neurobiology, and genetics while exploring the question, "How do you thrive in midlife?" She argues that rather than seeing midlife as a time of crises, we should be able to experience it as a time of renewal. (DG)
[BOOK] City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell. This book shredded me. Beautifully written, entirely credible story about two young Mennonite missionaries who leave the states for China at the beginning of the last century. They go to demonstrate the love of Christ and incur tremendous personal cost. (DG)
[BOOK] Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright. The story of the apostle Paul—the man, his theology, and his letters—as told by New Testament and early Christian scholar N.T. Wright is both erudite and delightfully accessible. And highly recommended. (CD)
Please tell us what you’re reading, watching, or listening to this month. We’re all ears!
Spiritual Practice of the Month: Generosity
Sometimes when we see the word “generosity”, we think of material giving. While that is one facet of a generous life, Judy Allen noted in her piece above that our accrued experience and wisdom is meant to be shared with the world around us. We can give away what we’ve received from God in lots of simple, practical ways including listening well without being too quick to give unsolicited advice, asking thoughtful questions in conversation, sharing a skill, telling your story (even the uncomfortable parts!) with honesty, and in mentoring relationships. More on that last one in a sec.
For those of you who are observing Lent, you may already be thinking about generosity as it is a core practice during this season of the Christian year. When Jesus sent out his disciples to tell the world that the kingdom of God is here, he instructed them to freely give all that they’d received from him. What have you received from God that you can give away to those in your world?
Coming next month: We’ll be focusing on mentoring relationships. Got a story to share about a mentoring relationship in your life? An example of a church that is facilitating meaningful mentoring relationships?
Photos by Paola Aguilar, Dino Reichmuth, Hisu lee, Kate Remmer on Unsplash
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Thank-you for challenging the societal myth that aging takes instead of gives. Grateful for this thoughtful and encouraging perspective, Afton!
Since I was quite young, I’ve looked forward to 80, the age when I imagined wisdom would happen. I’ll let you know what I find when I arrive!