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Why we should look at ageing as an opportunity

Perhaps it’s just my age, but recently I have begun to focus on the process of ageing. Getting older has so many connotations, most of which, we are led to believe, are negative and difficult. However, as someone once pointed out to me, the alternative is not much fun either!

I found myself wondering how or why we have created a narrative which is so negative, and whether this is really how we wish to continue.

As I have already mentioned, ageing brings about its own set of challenges, but then so does childhood, our teenage years, and our mid-life, and we, as a society, seem to view them through a more creative lens. Is it all to do with the individual’s fear of 'becoming a burden', or no longer economically productive, or is it something more than that? There could be a number of underlying factors.

As a nation, we are aware that care for the elderly is under-funded, and families are more split and, often, geographically remote. I wonder whether this continual challenge impacts on our attitude towards ageing. Or, perhaps it is because getting older does bring with it some changes, and when we are younger this is frightening in some way? Maybe Yalom* is right when he states that we all have a fear of death, and growing older brings us closer to this inevitable point. Whatever the roots, I believe it is important to begin to question whether this is the way we want our society to be heading.

The reality is that, as each generation moves on, the life expectancy of our population increases. A baby born in 2011 is almost eight times more likely to reach 100 than one born in 1931. By the year 2030, an estimated 20 million people will be over 60 years old.

So, how do we change this? It almost goes without saying that the only person we can change is ourselves, and that is where it must start.

  • Challenge the (often automatic) response to seeing signs of ageing in ourselves and others.
  • Rather than looking for the things which one cannot do, delight in the things we can do and do more of them!
  • Value the skills which you have developed over the years; the very skills which are now being sought after because people are moving away from the technological, disposable age and seeking to develop abilities which are rewarding and lead to a greater level of self-sufficiency.
  • Seek the wisdom of a life lived. Every person who we may view as elderly has had life experiences and whilst, sometimes, detached from the hustle and bustle of today’s workaday life, can still understand the importance of relationships, struggles with both internal and external demons, and the difficulties of being human.

You may be surprised what you find and, perhaps, we can all begin to change the toxic way we view a long life.

*Staring at the Sun. Yalom, Irvin.D., Piatkus (2011)

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Written by Sue McRitchie BACP (Accred), MSc, Dip.Couns.,Dip.Add.,Adv.Cert.Sup.

Sue McRitchie MSc., BACP Accred. has over 25 years experience of NHS, statutory, voluntary and private organisations with specialisms in addictions, systems and couples.

As practitioner and senior manager she has worked with management boards, multidisciplinary teams, supervisees and individuals/couples seeking to enhance their way of being.… Read more

Written by Sue McRitchie BACP (Accred), MSc, Dip.Couns.,Dip.Add.,Adv.Cert.Sup.

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