Staying Open, Staying Alive

One of the keys to successful aging—or successful anything for that matter—is having the right attitude. Yet knowing you should have a good attitude doesn’t help much when you have a bad one. It’s about as useful as your mother telling you not to worry when you’re worried. Advice about attitude doesn’t help change whatever it is you’re talking about.

Nonetheless, when we talk about ‘attitudes’ we all know more or less what we are speaking about—an embodied point of view or outlook on life in general and the future in particular that is all wrapped up in a mood that shouts, “THIS IS WHO I AM!” It is pretty hard to hide your attitudes. When you’re feeling depressed, angry, afraid, apathetic or bored, it is usually pretty obvious to everyone. Likewise when you’re feeling gung ho, happy, generous, very focused or engaged, it is also pretty obvious. Our attitudes—positive or negative—tend to be contagious.

I propose that growing older can be a very positive process, perhaps the best part of life, even if one’s life has been extraordinary already. I say this in spite of fact that our prevailing cultural assumption is that it is a period of decline and loss (even though there may be some compensating benefits). Most people’s overall attitude toward aging is one of resignation and working hard to cope successfully with the ‘facts’ of growing older. A growing number of people in their 50s and 60s (and a few who are even older) are beginning to resist the negative stereotypes associated with aging and commit themselves to non-traditional lifestyles and other possibilities. This is good.

I was thinking of calling this blog “Attitudes that give seniors a bad name”, but it was too long and a bit ‘edgier’ than I intend. What triggered the idea for it was the recent Boomer Blather posting by Ronni at timegoesby. Normally I like her site, but occasionally she gets on her journalistic high horse and starts generalizing about something and putting down folks who might not agree with her. Anyway, she is now smugly poo-pooing a lot of us who are attempting to speak to the ‘Baby Boomers’ on a variety of subjects ranging from lifestyles and life options to the philosophical and paradigmatic foundations of aging in our culture. Her sanctimonious and smug attitude is closed and she is starting to sound like the kind of old person that makes younger people, and at least a few of her peers, well—uncomfortable.

In my experience, the most important attitude any of us can have is that of being open-minded and interested in everything around us. An attitude of openness is both healthy for those of us who work to have it, and an inspiration to others. With an open outlook on life, we’re able to receive the contributions of others, remain vital and engaged, and experience things we haven’t even imagined. With a closed attitude, we can easily end up joining the ranks of self-righteous crones looking down their collective noses at others and cutting themselves off from the kinds of intergenerational connections that make life at any age worth living.

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