Ageing and invisible? Time to be seen... and heard
As a woman in my 50s, I am – like many of my generation – beginning to face issues of ageing. I am not yet ‘elderly’, but I am, almost unavoidably, heading in that direction.
Of course, we are all ageing, all the time. We may well receive birthday cards with ageing jokes on them long before it feels like a relevant issue to us. And for some, it may never feel problematic. Getting older can bring wisdom, and a comfort within ourselves; a greater confidence, a heightened sense of freedom. For many, however, the simple fact of our increasing years can bring about concerns, worries and feelings that may be difficult to process.
Those concerns may be about concrete elements of our lives: work – or its lack; caring for parents – or other older relatives; increasing poverty and debt – our own, or our children’s. With the advancing years, comes wear and tear on our bodies, that may lead to illness, disability or just a general physical tiredness; a weakening of our energies. And our emotional lives will also carry the weight and scars of those years; few people reach old-age, or even middle-age, without experiencing a number of losses.
Death of those we love from older generations is immensely painful. And the sense of loss can have additional dimensions to it when those we lose are increasingly of our own, and even younger generations. These bereavements can bring issues of immediacy regarding our own mortality; a reality that can seem impossible to grasp, and even harder to accept.
When we look in the mirror, we may see one of our parents instead of ourselves or just someone who is not us, bringing a loss of identity. And that is a feeling that can be exacerbated by an increasing sense of invisibility when out in the world. These could all be considered the routine conditions of ageing and for many, confusing feelings of a lack of purpose are also common following retirement, and with grown-up children.
This all sounds terribly bleak, and for those who are absorbed by their own ageing process, it can feel that way too. Chatting and sharing concerns with friends and others who are at a similar stage of life can help. There are practical things we can do too; looking outwards towards others and offering time; new pursuits (yes ok, ‘hobbies’); physical activity. These all have a good record for increasing positivity (and are recommended by the charity ‘Age UK’).
But what about when you are stuck? When you can’t even get as far as knowing what the problem is, you just know that those unfunny jokes on birthday cards now irritate you in a different way, and you certainly are not ready to look at charity websites… but still you cannot fully identify where the problem lies. It could be that a few sessions with a counsellor could help.
No counsellor, (nor scientist, nor anyone in history) has ever been able to stop or take away the facts of ageing and all that comes with it. They could however, help you to feel visible; seen. And heard too. And in being seen and heard, you could start to gain some clarity, to begin to accept where you are in your life, even to understand more about your life’s purpose. Then, you may feel ready to move forward into the next phase of that newly appreciated, ageing life.