The Montfort Group

Reflections on Aging

Since Summer, flyers about Medicare – Sign up now! Don’t forget supplemental insurance! – have filled my mailbox. Sorting through the information is overwhelming and truth be told, I have no clue how I landed here. Refections on aging, am I really on the brink of senior-dom? In my head, I’m still 40 years old with an entire life ahead of me and as far away from retirement as I can imagine. With a third act career that gives me purpose and joy, I’m happier now than I was earlier in my life.

Turns out, I’m not alone.

Aging Gracefully and Happily

According to a recent study, older adults surveyed reflect on aging as feeling “calm, optimistic, cheerful and full of life, and less likely to report hopelessness, restlessness, nervousness or sadness, than those in their 20s, 30s and 40s.” Wow, who knew?

A second study, Happiness, Stress, and Age, identified a U-curve of happiness which illustrates a decline in happiness as people hit their 30s, 40s, and 50s which then increases into their 60s and beyond. While the media would have us believe the golden years are a time to slow down, get sick, lose our minds and wait to die, these studies present a far more hopeful picture. We get happier as we get older!

I asked my personal authority on aging, my 82-year old mum, about the happiest periods in her life. “Right now,” she said, “really for the last 10 years, I would say I’ve been happiest.” Knowing she’s had some major health issues to face in that period, I asked what contributed to her happiness in her reflections on aging. There were a few things including independence she found after my father died. “I always thought I needed other people to be okay – friends, a husband, my parents. I’m stronger than I thought I was and though I spend time being alone, I’m not lonely. I have freedom to do what I want, when I want without having to answer to anyone else.” I would also add that Mum remains curious about life and people, asks lots of questions and bombs around in her Miata with glee. She is not afraid to discover new things which makes her happy!

Re-invention

So as I fill out my medicare application, I’m struck by several thoughts. As a woman, I’ve reached a beautiful time in my life. While ageism is prevalent and I could cite plenty of examples, the stereotypes are not a fit for many of us. It doesn’t mean we aren’t aware we have fewer years ahead than behind but the years behind offer confidence, discernment and a wisdom we wouldn’t have otherwise. And by the way, women in particular are most inclined to re-invent themselves in their 50s and beyond. At 50, I went to grad school and launched a new career that I will practice until I can’t. Who says we can’t continue to meet parts of ourselves we didn’t know were in there? Or pursue dreams that are shelved along the way?

Sex

And while we’re talking about factors contributing to increased happiness and reflections on aging, let’s talk about sex. In their book, Magnificent Sex, sex therapists Peggy Kleinplatz, PhD and Dana Menard, PhD explore factors contributing to magnificent sex. They found that many of their subjects first experienced “great sex” in midlife. Why? According to these researchers, couples are “clearer on what they want, are better able to articulate and ask for it, and more skillful at negotiating”. Subjects learned that expectations and stereotypes didn’t fit the components of connected, magnificent sex which evolved with life experience and knowing themselves. Aging is a process over a lifetime and with it comes certain loss and reflection. There is no way around it. But the losses can teach us to appreciate the present, focus on what gives us joy, be less self-judgmental and think about what really makes us happy.

As the song goes, the best is yet to come!

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie is a Licensed Professional Counselor with her Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She is also a graduate of McGill University in Montreal. She received advanced practical training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples and families at UT Southwestern, where she spent five years in the Department of Psychiatry’s Family Studies Clinic working with diverse clients of all ages. In addition, she has completed training in Collaborative Law for couples seeking divorce to find solutions in a more amicable way.

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