Like so many of us, I am an early baby boomer. At this stage in our lives, most of us have achieved a great deal and have reached many milestones. Many of us are parents and grandparents, and we are seasoned in life and work.
I am in the process of writing my third book, “Not My Mother’s Fifty: Seven Steps to Follow Your Passion at Any Age,” which focuses on aging well and how we can trust our intuition and gut instincts.
Here are three ways that we zekeinim (elders) can continue to lead productive, rewarding lives:
• Create a strong support system. Many of us have lost loved ones and become resigned to relationships that are known and reliable but do not serve us. Reevaluate your support system and reach out for new support that will help you solve problems and live a happier life.
• Merge high-tech with high-touch. Understanding the language and technology of today not only helps us build confidence, but it also helps us appreciate our own communication skills. In the movie “The Intern,” Ben, played by Robert De Niro, counsels a millennial who is lamenting about the breakup with his girlfriend because of his behavior. Ben asks the young man if he has spoken to the woman. The man responds with, “No, I texted her.” And Ben says, “You texted her?” And the man responds, “Oh, but then I emailed her!” Ben is amazed, and encourages the man to speak face to face to the girlfriend. This is an example of being more reliant on technology than verbal communication. Our generations can learn from each other.
• Engage in positive talk about aging. This means avoiding stereotypes about aging. The subject of aging is in the repertoire of many comedians. The jokes refer to having less drive, sexual energy, physical capacity, brainpower, hair, and function in general. These stereotypes, as well as vitality, are not dependent on chronological age. In today’s world, with so many advances in medicine, we are living longer, healthier lives.
On the website Jewish Values Online (http://jewishvaluescenter.org), Rabbi Iscah Waldman states, “If you look at a number of our biblical stories, you will note that many of our ancestors did their best ‘work’ in their old age. Abraham and Sarah were given a child in their 90s [actually, Abraham was older], and Jacob reconciles with Esau after a very rocky youth. … Moses is around 80 when he is sent to deliver the people from Egypt, and there are countless other examples. Rabbinic literature is filled with numerous examples of elderly sages imparting their wisdom, and of people who have been rewarded for respecting and honoring their elderly parents.”
I think embracing who we are and learning how to comfort ourselves is a way to good health. If we can grow older gracefully, accepting our age, wisdom, knowledge and experience, we can relax more and enjoy who we are as people.
PATRICIA RASKIN hosts “The Patricia Raskin Show” on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on WPRO, 630 AM/99.7 FM and on Mondays at 2 p.m. on voiceamerica.com. Raskin is a board member of Temple Emanu-El in Providence.