By Tim Mitchell, Fund Development Coordinator, Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E.
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”
That was a question asked by legendary baseball player Leroy “Satchel” Paige. Satchell asked that question in part because he wasn’t exactly sure how old he was due to incomplete birth records around the turn of the century in the early 1900’s. However, the question is certainly a thought provoking one.
According to a Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends Survey on Aging, while the chronological age of an individual may not be in question today, the age at which “old age” begins is up for debate. One might even conclude that it is more a “matter of the heart,” than a matter of age. Of course one’s physical heart plays a significant role in the aging process, but possibly just as importantly, an individual’s emotional “heart” appears to also be of noteworthy importance.
Satchel Paige also often joked about his age saying, “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” The above mentioned Pew survey basically confirmed Paige’s humorous quip. The survey found that you’re never too old to feel young. In fact, it revealed that the older people get, the younger they feel. 60% of survey responders 65 years and older said they felt younger than their age, compared with 32% who said they felt exactly their age and just 3% who said they felt older than their age.
The gap between actual age and “felt age” actually widens as people grow older.
Nearly half of all survey respondents ages 50 and older said they felt at least 10 years younger than their chronological age. Among the 65 to 74 age group, a third said they felt 10 to 19 years younger than their age, and slightly more than 15% said they felt at least 20 years younger than their actual age.
So now we have data-driven proof that age really is a “matter of the ‘emotional’ heart.” Or, to put it another way, it is all about your perception of life. It’s interesting to see how priorities change as we age. Things that were so important 20 or 30 years ago, don’t carry the same weight today. According to this same survey, the most important things for respondents 65 or older was to spend more time with their family, followed by taking time for hobbies, travel and doing volunteer work, in that order. As people move deeper into their 70’s and 80’s, the survey revealed their daily activity levels diminished, while daily prayer and interest in spiritual matters increased.
Life has a way of changing us – all of us. A 20 year old today will think differently at 40 and even more different at 60 and 70. Life is indeed a journey and we need to enjoy every step of that journey. Being older is an opportunity to reflect on life, not with disappointment or regret, but with thankfulness for those that have filled our lives with happiness. Yes, everyone has disappointment and often some degree of tragedy in life. However, looking at the negative aspects of the journey usually doesn’t promote joy in the excursion. Whereas, focusing on the sweetness of life gives us an opportunity to be grateful for a life well-lived.
“It Takes a Long Time to Become Young”
Pablo Picasso once said, “It takes a long time to become young.” That is, we do a lot of fussing in life until we get to a place of maturity that allows us to understand wherein the real happiness of our life journey lies. Sharon Draper may have said it best, “Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall. It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events. Joy comes in sips, not gulps.” Someone else appropriately said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
About Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E.
At Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E., we encourage our participants to enjoy the very special things in life that come to each of us on a daily basis. That’s the reason we offer the opportunity for socialization activities and times of reminiscing with friends. That’s why we take time to respectfully listen to each person tell us their own story, look at pictures of their children and grandchildren, spend time creating an art project with them, help them walk again, help them manage their medications and physical ailments, and make them feel comfortable in their own home. It’s because we want to make their journey as happy and as joyful as possible. One participant recently said, “Coming here is the best part of my week.”
That tells me we are making the journey sweeter for the participants we serve.
Aging really is a matter of the heart. It’s our heart, our mission, and our purpose. To learn more about how Senior Care Partners P.A.C.E. can help make the life journey more pleasant for you or your loved one, please contact us at (269) 441-9319 or at https://www.seniorcarepartnersmi.org/contact/.