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24 Jan
2018

Am I an Elder?

Halong Bay, Bev Scott Author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I can say from my own experience that at a certain point people will begin to treat you as an elder and look for benefits that you may be able to give them.

That is your cue to make a shift. You are no longer part of the crowd. Now you have to step up and assume a new place in your community. For you, it is yet another rite of passage, an ascension of state and transformation of you and your life to a level where you can enjoy new pleasures and feel new obligations…

That act requires character and the ability to know yourself without falling into either too high an opinion of yourself or false humility. Normally you develop this capacity for honest leadership over many years. The apprenticeship for the elder begins very young and continues over a lifetime.”

Thomas Moore, in a Nov./Dec. 2017 article in Spirituality and Health Magazine adapted from his Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy 

As I prepared for my first trip to Asia, I had the feeling that I was transitioning to a new segment of my life.

I traveled last month with my daughter and grandsons to a new part of the world for me. It was a special joy to be with them and I loved learning about the people and cultures that we visited. In addition, travel often provides opportunities to learn about ourselves and this trip was no exception.

Bev Scott and Family, Rickshaws, in Asia 2017 Happy Birthday, Bev Scott, 2017, in Asia

I was treated as an elder, as Moore suggests, by many we met and by my daughter and grandsons. In addition, traveling with much younger and stronger companions forced me to face the realities of an aging body. I no longer have the energy, stamina, quick recovery or balance that I have counted on most of my life. I have learned that I need to rest more, calibrate my planned itinerary and keep a watchful eye on the path for those items that might trip me. I need to more carefully monitor my food and water intake.

Yet, in contrast to my younger self who often pushed herself too hard and ended up sick in bed, I maintained my health and energy after long flights, days spent walking and exploring the sites, museums and markets and eating different and unusual food.

Transition Time

I came home ready to explore this feeling that I am at another transition time in my life.

Bev Scott at Word Project Press event, Oct. 2017When I turned 70, I realized that I needed to let go of my consulting and coaching work if I wanted to write the book about my grandparents. I wrote about this decision in an article included in the book, 70 Things to Do When You Turn 70. Now, after Sarah’s Secret has been out for a year and I have worked on promoting it by selecting those activities that served my interests and skills, I find I am casting about for what is next. I don’t plan to stop the work of book promotion, reading, or writing reviews and my blog. But, I am not strongly motivated to write another book, although all the experts recommend that is the way to proceed. There are many other activities that reward and challenge me, light up my spirit and warm my heart.

Who I Am as an Elder?

Yes, I am exploring what I want to do, but I am also reflecting on who I am as an elder at this point in my life.

I have thought of myself as twenty or thirty years younger until I look in the mirror. The image that looks back tells me that I am no longer in the same body. The hair is graying, the face has wrinkles and my body sags in places. But that appearance is no longer so important. I realize that the qualities of my character matter more to me now. I feel more confident and self-aware. I appreciate the lessons learned over my life-time from experience, the insight and, yes, the wisdom. I hope I am neither too arrogant nor falsely humble about my accomplishments. I am grateful for the abundance the Universe has shared with me and I continue to make a contribution back to the world using my skills, energy and resources. I value my spiritual practice, my exercise routine, my health and the special relationships I have with my partner, my daughter and grandsons and my friends.

I am, as Moore suggests, stepping away from the crowd and transitioning to a new stage in my life. I don’t know how much time I have left. But I find that I am thinking more about the finite amount of time life gives us. Whatever that time is for me, I want to spend it with those I love, continue to do the best I can with whatever I commit to do and find opportunities for learning both about myself and about subjects that interest me.

What are your thoughts about this transition to elderhood and your aging process?

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10 Comments

  • THOUGHTFUL AND PROVOKING

  • Bev
    So well articulated, as usual. An important message for all of us as we move into this ‘elder’ phase of life. Thanks for encouraging my personal reflection. :-))

  • A wonderful insight into becoming an “Elder.” I feel I’m almost there, wherever “there” is for me. Additionally I want to prolong the process, take my time to do things that make me happy and satisfy me on my journey toward “Elderhood.” Great post, Bev.

  • Hi, Bev. So, where did you go? It looks like a Norwegian cruise to me–but maybe Alaska?
    Carol

    • In the blog I said I went to Asia but more specifically Cambodia and Vietnam.

  • My older sister and I had the discussion a while back about being elderly. To begin with she emailed me and asked if we were the elderly couple arrested in Nebraska for transporting marijuana on I-80. I responded that it was not us and besides we are not elderly. She said, “What are we then?”

    Now just today in our local newspaper the publisher talks about age and says that the World Health Organization has defined a new criteria for human aging – 66 to 79 is middle-age, 80 to 99 is elderly or senior and 100+ is long-lived elderly. I remember many years ago referring to a couple as middle-age and she was miffed and was probably in the 45-50 age group.

    I know it depends a lot on your health and activity level but I’m going to stay in the middle-age group for as long as I can.

  • Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate your thoughts and responses. I am comfortable with being an “elder” or “middle-aged”. It is harder to think of my self as “old”. Elderhood is beginning to be comfortable.

  • Bev
    Step one. Don’t look in the mirror.

    Chuckwoods56.blogspot.com

  • I retired (third try, and it’s working!) six months ago, and questions of identity have been a big part of the process that I’ve been going through. This concept of “elder” is very intriguing, and gives me another lens to use in my process.

    I’m really struck by the phrase “no longer part of the crowd.” I have started to realize that, as I gradually let go of my identity as a working professional, and gradually stop trying to keep up with my field, I am feeling disoriented about “who I am” and what priorities I want to have. I am feeling a sense of loss, which seems normal and seems like something that will last a little while until I consolidate another way of thinking about myself. At some point, my occasional dreams about the working world will stop.

    I have been wondering whether my new path will involve mostly looking inward and developing my inner self, or will focus on deepening external connections. Most likely it will be both, and the vision of “elder” as you’ve articulated it is a helpful one. Thank you!

    • Dan,
      Thank you for your thoughtful message. It did take me awhile to revise my identity from my professional identity, harder for those of us who have identified longer and perhaps more strongly with a profession.
      For me stepping away from the crowd not only means stepping away professionally but also realizing that as an elder, I have not only my own identity but individual unique needs and interests. I need to be sure that I pay attention to those, some of which I listed in the blog, and be comfortable not going with, or joining others when it does not fit for me.
      Stepping away also means that I want to pay attention to my needs for both the inner-directed learning and the other-directed learning which doesn’t always conform to others expectations.
      And, yes it is a path of learning, exploring and growing. I am happy others are exploring it too.

So, what do you think?

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