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My 12-Step Plan for Aging Gracefully

Loraine lives in northeast Nebraska. Now retired, she enjoys arts and crafts, and she used to be a volunteer art teacher.

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Age Gracefully With a Positive Attitude

Are you aging gracefully? Is there a smile on your face, a spring in your step, and do you sport a positive attitude? If you can reply with a resounding, "Yes!" then you probably don't need to read this article. But if you can't truthfully answer positively, then read on.

You may wonder what makes me think I know the answers to these questions. Well, I think you already know the answers just as well as I do, but sometimes, we all just need a reminder. I'm inviting you to read this senior's plan for graceful aging. After all—we're on this journey together.

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Step 1 - Adjust Your Attitude

... if needed.

Have you ever noticed that some 50-year-olds look and act like they're 80, and some 80-year-olds look and act like they are 50? Now, I'm not talking about folks who have serious or crippling illnesses. I'm talking about seniors that seem to think they are supposed to "act" old—you know who you are.

Try this:

Put a big smile on your face, stand up tall, and walk around the room two times. I'll bet you already feel better. Our attitude has so much to do with how we feel. Okay, so sometimes we have to fake feeling great—but if we do it, pretty soon, we'll actually start believing and feeling it.

We should all try to live by this quote by Charles R. Swindoll:

"We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude."

Another favorite quote of mine is this one by Abe Lincoln:

"People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."

We really do have control over our attitude. We may not be able to change a situation, but we can control how we react. Be positive, not negative.

Step 2 - Skip the Complaints

...they're boring.

No doubt, you have aches and pains. That's part of aging. I don't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that if all the people in a room could lay their problems out on the table, and then choose among those laying there, most folks would pick up the ones they laid down.

Chances are, you've learned how to live with the problems you have, and you wouldn't want to have to learn to live with new ones. Remember the adage: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? If you cross over to the other side and look back, the grass is greener on the side you came from.

So, now we have to figure out how we are going to go about this aging process gracefully. Well, to start out, there are a few things you can start doing immediately. Put that smile on your face. Make your eyes twinkle, and turn up the ends of your mouth. That wasn't so hard, was it? I'm already feeling better. Sit or stand up as straight as you can. Suck your gut in a little, and imagine you're balancing a wine glass on your head. (We're imagining this, so we might as well imagine wine in the glass and take a sip or two.)

Remember, when someone asks you how you feel, they're just being polite and starting a conversation—they really don't want to hear about your latest sickness or hospital stay. The only time you should talk about your illness is if someone has directly asked about it. For instance, if someone says, "I heard you were in the hospital, how are you feeling today?" This person might actually be interested in your health, but be sure to keep the answer short and then talk about something else. Even the weather is more interesting than sore knees or any other complaints. The last thing we want is to be thought of as grouchy old crabs. No one—absolutely no one—wants to be around a whiner.

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Step 3 - Avoid Controversial Stuff

People say that if you wish to live harmoniously, you should avoid discussing religion and politics, so the following two points are purely my own opinion. You may accept or reject them, as you wish.

Religion: Whether you are religious or not, it's best to avoid this topic unless you know that the people around you are of the same mind as you. Practice whatever you choose, and allow others to do the same.

Politics: There is a time and a season for everything. We're now at the age when we can be concerned about something but choose to let someone else make the waves. Go out and VOTE.

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Step 4 - Keep Busy

... a solution to boredom.

If you are bored and find that you are sticking your nose into other people's business, get a part-time job or become a volunteer.

First and foremost, working and/or volunteering will make you realize that you are still a valuable person. I'm not suggesting doing something strenuous or stressful, but something you feel comfortable doing. Consider what you spent your life doing and then decide what kind of work you would enjoy. You still have a lot to contribute, and there are so many places that would welcome volunteers. Schools, churches, and hospitals all need volunteers.