On Aging. ~ Kimberly Lo

Via on Jul 5, 2013

Beautiful mature woman in yoga pose baddhakonasana.

Back in 2007, I got the idea for an art project that involved photographing the elderly and having them discuss their lives before they became old and retired.

My inspiration for this project came from a conversation I had with an elderly woman who was a retired partner at the law firm where I worked. Back in her day, she had been quite a trailblazer: as I recall, she was one of the first female partners ever at this very old, very Southern and very well-known law firm.

Now, pushing 90, she was recently widowed and lived in a retirement where the highlight of her week (and that of most of her fellow residents) was to walk across the street to the Giant supermarket each Friday when the new magazines were put out on display.

I remember thinking that this was funny when I first heard this but after I thought about it for awhile, I thought it was very sad. I remember wondering: is this what I had to look forward once I joined the ranks of the elderly.

I thought about aging a lot that year. Earlier in the year, I celebrated a milestone birthday (I turned 30), and I started to do editing work for a retired professor who was 76 years old at the time. I also lived a town which is popular place to retire. I was surrounded by people of a certain age, but I never stopped to think of what their lives were like before they became old and largely invisible to most of the world.

To say that we fear aging in this society is an understatement.

In fact, that the only option to not getting old is to die. Indeed, in our culture, there is an air of romanticism around those that “live hard and die young”. Think of the infamous “27 Club” whose members include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse to name a few. There is even an expression that only the good die young.

As a woman, I think of all the products marketed specifically to members of my sex: the pills, the potions, the lotions-all of which (falsely) promise to stop the clock and/or return the body to its youthful self. Of course, none of this stuff actually works, but many people still want to believe the promises. There is even a branch of medicine devoted to anti-aging, and  it is expected to grow especially as the population as a whole begins to grow older.

Still, even if there is a huge scientific breakthrough that radically slows down or prevents the physical signs of aging the truth remains that for most of us, we get old. We are also living longer than ever and a recent National Geographic cover story suggests that some of us may live to be 120 years old.

Therefore, the only way to really conquer the fear of aging is to accept it and even embrace some of its advantages.

Yeah, getting old may have it’s drawbacks, but there are real advantages, too.

Like my aforementioned boss recently mentioned over lunch, there is a freedom that comes with aging. He shared that he no longer cares so much what people think of his opinion. (And least anyone think that aging equals inertia, he is 82, still lives independently along with his wife of the same age,  recently has written a book and in the past year alone has made trips to several areas including Washington State, New York, Puerto Rico, and Goa.)

I’m not suggesting that this is typical, but the idea that creativity and success only happen to the young is not true. Indeed, one of my favorite late-bloomer success stories of all time is Harland aka “Colonel” Sanders who by his own admission was a professional failure until he was well into his 50s.

As a woman who has worried for a good part of her life about her looks, I look forward to moving past that. That does not mean “letting myself go”, but I look forward to the day when I am past most of that. (I am especially looking forward to the day when my hair goes totally grey because my own father and most likely my mother, will never have that opportunity.)

In the mean time, I am, via my project, taking the time to get to know some of those “invisible” people around me. I am fascinated by people in general and their stories and if I have learned anything, it is that most people have an interesting story to tell even if one would never suspect it just by looking at them.

Perhaps if we come to see aging as a privilege rather than a burden we as a society can change and stop ignoring people once they reach a certain age.

It may be an ambitious goal, but it certainly is worth a shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like elephant health & wellness on Facebook.

Ed: Bryonie Wise

 

About Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.

4,753 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

13 Responses to “On Aging. ~ Kimberly Lo”

  1. Well done, Kimberly. Here's my contribution to the literature of aging, a very popular article that appeared on elephant a few years ago:

    My Father: Starting Yoga at 87.

    As for me, I'm just 64, and you never know what's just around the corner, but so far life just keeps getting better and better. Yesterday I had to put off work on my latest brainstorm (Best of Yoga Philosophy}, so I could play with two of my five grandkids all day!

    Thanks for the article.

    Bob W. Editor
    Best of Yoga Philosophy

  2. Kimberly Lo kimberlylowriter says:

    Thank you, Bob!

  3. Robbin says:

    Love the idea of seeing aging as a privilege rather than a burden. You mentioned the societal perspective, but what about the personal perspective. What might it mean to us as individuals to value, even look forward to, gray hair, wrinkles, sagging, having a more seasoned view of the world, for instance? What if those were viewed as marks of success, strength and power? I think I'll adopt that attitude for a while and see. I have plenty to work with.

  4. Dana Gornall Dana says:

    I really enjoyed this article. My grandma lived to be 96 and when she died she had a Facebook account and an iPad. She always will be the kind of person I want to be as I age. I use her as an example for my kids when they complain that the best shows were the ones they watched when they were younger. (yes they actually say that) I tell them "Look at how Great-Grandma lived. Look at all the things she saw in her life and she was always open to change." Thank you for this.

  5. I am 66 years of age and live in an american high rise for the elderly and disabled. More and more of my friends and neighbors are using canes, walkers, wheelchairs, etc. Some die or disappear into old age homes and are not heard from again. I really don't feel too old except that I have no teeth as they were all gone 18 years ago and I can no longer use my dentures, so it is very embarrassing to be in public w/o teeth as the jaw and gums are always moving and it is hard to talk. But I am into photography and have had my work exhibited in several local galleries. But we all must face the realities of material life: the disadvantages of birth, death, old age and disease. My faith in Krishna sustains me and I eagerlly pursue my sadhana and seva and prepare for my eventual death. Life is good but short and painful but e persevere. I do not fear death or the afterlife as I know we continue as living entities and that we live and move and have our being in a just and merciful and loving god.

  6. Lovely article. Thank you. Recently my friends and I pondered this: when will we stop bothering with stuff like fillers and Botox. We all agreed on one thing: we won't stop doing yoga!

  7. Talley Beth says:

    Kimberly-

    I love this article. It reminds me of my grandmother. She traveled abroad for the first time last year at age 84, and is about to embark on another trip abroad this summer. She's the perfect example of someone who has aged with distinction: while she stays as active as possible– both physically and mentally, and always takes care of her looks, she has also allowed herself to accept that she's older– which is that idea again of not really caring what anyone else's opinion is.

    Thank you for the uplifting and hopeful article.

    I think the trap to watch out for is to allow oneself to get "Old." While accepting age definitely gives one the freedoms you talked about, I think the opposite end of the spectrum is to say, "well, I'm old now," and allow yourself to stop staying active, to stop pushing the limits, to be okay with the highlight of your week to be the trip to the supermarket. I know that sometimes it just can't be helped, due to medical problems, but I wonder how to strike the balance?

  8. cindylbentz says:

    Money helps as we age. Just sayin

  9. Sharon says:

    The Dalai Lama just turned 78. He is vital, he is vibrant. He is committed to living from a foundation of loving-kindness. I doubt he has ever worried about "letting himself go", or being "invisible". He lives each day thoroughly and with awareness. I'm 70 and trying to emulate him. That's all we need to do about aging – live life with kindness and awareness every day. The rest will take care of itself.

  10. Kuru says:

    On an encouraging note to you young ones, at 68, I find people are eager for my opinion. It actually takes me aback sometimes that my ideas are so often implemented. I've been a health advocate since the '70's, not always walking my talk until most recently. That's what's paying off, in so many ways. Never mind all the potions, especially botox that so often gives a ghoulish look. Opt for fresh food, veggie juice, exercise every day and meditate, and that highlight of going to the magazine rack will be just one of many. Every moment becomes a golden gift as you relax into the bliss of an unhurried life.

  11. jenifermparker says:

    I'm blessed to have some awesome seniors around me — people who are really vital in their 70s and beyond. It's a real inspiration.

    In terms of "not worrying about looks," at 37, I feel like I've finally gotten there. I'm very happy and comfortable with my (very young) body, but I can also see that I'm aging, too. Not old, just — I don't look 20 any more! But moreso, I don't have all of the worries and hang-ups about my body that I had in my 20s, and even my early 30s. It's like a distant memory — I'm just not worried about it.

    My focus is really on nourishing my body with good rest, good nourishment, meditation, and movement (yoga, pilates, belly dance, swimming and walking). I *finally* think my body is beautiful, even though it's nothing like what I thought it needed to look like just last year. I mean, I think it's truly beautiful — but last year I was convinced that this same body needed X, Y, and Z changed. I'm not sure HOW this change came about fo rme, but it has.

    Yes, I am still very young. And, I'm very fit and healthy. But I have felt that "as i've aged" the fears and anxieties that I had around my body — from the time I was a teen until just within the last year — have really dissipated.

  12. Elena Ray says:

    Photo of Joshua Tree, CA yoga teacher Karen Tracy by Elena Ray http://www.antaratma.me xo!

Leave a Reply