Health and well-being isn’t just for the young.
Look up senior in the thesaurus and you’ll see synonyms like elder, pensioner, senior citizen, ancient, old-timer and elderly person just for starters. With such a list, it’s no wonder so many people not only cringe at the thought of being referred to as seniors but actively resist the use of the term.
Our society’s focus on youth is certainly nothing new. Even Juan Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth, which ultimately led him to discover Florida in 1513, had been preceded by tales of sacred, restorative waters for centuries. However, is it youth that everyone seeks or is it perhaps well-being?
The difference between youth and well-being
Youth in and of itself is simply a newness or, one could even say, a lack of something else caused by the sheer fact that time has not allowed for that something else to develop. Yet we tend to not only associate youth with energy, passion, vigor and ability but actually equate it with such. At the same time, we then equate being older with the lack of that energy, passion, vigor and ability. Because those qualities would naturally be something that people may want, a preference for youth emerges.
However, there should be – and is – no reason that an “older” person cannot display extreme levels of qualities commonly associated with a younger person. In fact, an older person may well add something else to the mix that could even elevate an experience in different ways—not necessarily better but certainly not worse, just different.
If we put the spotlight on living well and being able to achieve and enjoy our lives, does our age in years necessarily matter?
Inspiring examples abound
Many an “older” person has achieved what many may think should only be done by the young. Consider these examples:
- In 2007, at the age of 95, Nola Ochs became the oldest person to graduate from college. Three years later at 98, she earned her master’s degree. Learning, it seems, should be a lifelong pursuit.
- Diana Nyad is the oldest person to date to have swam the 110 miles of the Florida Straits without a shark cage. She completed this feat in 53 hours on her third attempt at the age of 64.
- When arthritis forced her to put down her embroidery needle at 76 years young, Grandma Moses picked up a paint brush. Three years later her work graced the walls of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
- After running her first marathon at the age of 76, Harriette Thompson became the oldest woman to complete a marathon at age 92 with a time of 7:24:36. On June 4, 2017 at the age of 94, she became the oldest woman to complete a half marathon with a time of 3:42:56. Oh, and in 2013 she overcame breast cancer and has raised over $115,000 for breast cancer awareness and treatment. Before donning running shoes, the classically trained pianist played at Carnegie Hall among other notable venues.
If nothing else, these stories should make one thing clear—from the artistic to the intellectual to the physical and beyond, there should be no limits set on the pursuits of a “senior.” Well-being, it seems, really is for everyone.
Aging is a part of life
Everyone ages so why do we fight it so? Are we concerned that we may lose something of great value as we change? That energy, passion, vigor and ability, perhaps?
Maybe instead of fighting what we think could be the loss of those things, true well-being can be found in learning from what life presents us, adding that knowledge to the mix and using it to find new ways in which to channel our energies.
Whether that means scaling Mount Everest, joining the Senior Corps or keeping up with grandchildren, the beauty that is well-being can be every bit as much for a “senior” as for a “non-senior.”
What’s in a term anyway?
When thinking about someone who is “not young,” it’s time to shift the focus from what to call them to who they are and what they can do. With that frame of mind, even the term senior can be redefined and be embraced in positive ways.