MsDora, former teacher and counselor, is fascinated by the prospect of joyful aging. She explores and shares habits of happy seniors.
On my close approach to seventy, the memory of a recurring dream surfaced. I was always afraid to come down—down a ladder, down a stairway, down a hill. The dream never registered the climb upward. It always began with the fear of descending. The rungs on the ladder were too far apart. The steps on the stairway needed repair. The hill was slippery. Falling seemed inevitable, and I always woke up fearful.
Whenever I told the dream, the listener would say, “Most people are trying to go upward, why are you trying to come down?” There never was an answer. Still, comparing my seventieth birthday to the top of the hill, I wondered what fears would possess me on the way down, and I discussed the dilemma with my friend, Ada (fictitious name).
“You’re doing it again,” she said matter-of-factly. “You’re too obsessed with coming down. Spend your time expressing gratitude for reaching the top of the hill. Celebrate. Enjoy the view. Paint the big picture for the young ones. Encourage the older ones on their way up. If you focus on being productive, coming down will happen naturally, peacefully.”
Acting on Ada’s advice, I begin near the top of the hill to make a preliminary gratitude list, beginning with:
- The View from the Mountaintop
- The Mountain Guides
- The Scars
- Inner Strength
- The Supernatural
(1) The View from the Mountain Top
Clergyman Thomas De Witt preached the sermon that inspired my articles on Becoming Seventy. His sermon was based on Psalm 90:10 (New Living Translation) “Seventy years are given to us!” He explained the text the same way most people understand it, “The seventieth milestone of life is here planted as at the end of the journey.”
So for those who view life as an uphill climb, the mountain top represents age seventy. Talmage described the poise and mood of the celebrants. “You ought to feel like people toward the close of a summer day seated on the rocks watching the sunset.”
A sniff of the air on the mountain top inspires gratitude: for the privilege of living a full life; for the upward view of the heavens which after seventy years is still overwhelming; for the downward view of the hills and valleys symbolizing life’s struggles; for the surrounding view of natural resources to nourish life and the human fabrications which necessitated the climb. Add the rainbow colors of experiences, shaped by a variety of circumstances. Regardless of previous reactions, it is time to be grateful!
(2) The Mountain Guides
Parents and guardians were our first guides and they helped us make our first steps toward the climb. Their influence never left us, and we wish we had given them more thanks.
Then came teachers, preachers, doctors, counselors whom we respected and celebrated for their professional input. Some were nuisances, we thought, until we found out that they had given good directions and deserved more thanks.
Along the way, friends became family, confidantes and shoulders to lean on when we got tired. Some fell with us into the valleys and we developed character strengths by helping each other out.
Some guides appeared only once with a word we still remember. Some of these words came through books or on the lips of an actor in a play we watched. Here, near the mountaintop, a heap of gratitude wells up inside us, and we feel like saying thanks for something, anything, to everyone who enters our space.
(3) The Scars
It is doubtful that any human being could arrive at age seventy without some major fall in one or more of life’s pitfalls: financial incapability or loss, difficult relationships, addictions or any of the other thousand challenges which with life hits us hard enough to leave its mark. Some scars may be hidden so that only the scarred know where they are. Still, the memory of the injury and pain may surface from time to time.
So why are they on the gratitude list? Because scars speak to us about healing, survival, reality, strength, lessons lived and learned. All these are reasons to say thanks.
(4) Strength: Outer and Inner
In my youth, I wondered if I would look, and be, as well as some aging people I admired, when I reached their age. “Would I still be able to walk and swing my arms? Would I still drive myself and do my shopping? Gratefully, just a few steps from the mountain top, I still do. Not boasting, just registering my observation that I do not take these strengths for granted.
The big secret some of these elders share (and now I can relate) is that they do not always feel as strong as they look. The attitude of gratitude obscures their limps and staggers.
There is even more gratitude for inner strength—the courage to believe that the seventies can be productive; the resilience to rise above the doubts and regrets that surface with memories of negative happenings; the faith to maintain the outlook that life on the mountaintop can be not only endurable, but also enjoyable. This inner strength is continually renewed by the expression of thanks.
(5) The Supernatural
“What we all need is to take the supernatural into our lives,” preached Talmage. The *research shows that people are more accepting of spirituality as they age. They need divine help to cope with aging situations like the onset of physical and mental decline, loss of lifelong partners, and even as in my dream mentioned earlier, support to lean on as they descend the mountain.
- Spirituality “creates a sense of meaning and coherence in one’s life that becomes especially important during the final stages of human development.” (J. W. Fowler, 1981 and L. Tornstam, 1997)
- “It helps soothe fear and insecurity about one’s own mortality.” (K. E. Vail et al., 2009)
Some aging people are spiritual because they have been spiritual all their lives. They have always attributed protection, provision, success, wealth, and all types of daily blessings to the involvement of their God in their lives. This author joins this group in thanking Him first and last.
*Jackson, Steve: Why Are Old People So Religious? (verified by Psychology Today 02/16/2016)
- Becoming Seventy: Looking Back at Past Decades
Revisiting past decades boosts our sense of appreciation. The brief reflections will encourage us, as well as those who have passed seventy, to embrace the privilege of future birthdays with joy.
- Becoming Seventy: The Age of New Beginnings
Times have changed. Today's average woman in her seventieth year is still becoming old, although her grandmother at that same age was already very old. We look briefly at some issues in her new world.
- Becoming Seventy: Holding on to Real Beauty
"My beauty will last as long as I live; No dwindling of charm you will see. I have found a way to boost my appeal As the years take their toll on me." All older people can benefit from this perspective.
© 2019 Dora Weithers