If you’re like me, you may click YES when the app download box asks if you’ve read– AND ACCEPT—the entire Terms of Agreement. If you’re like the vast majority of us, you agree to the stipulations without reading them all! That’s how we may give over to others the right to determine how we will use a product or service.
Alan Castel, author of *Better with Age: The Psychology of Successful Aging, suggests a metaphorical connection to our shared ACCEPT behaviors. His insights are worth considering by any of us who have agreed to the proposition that we can age meaningfully.
In Castel’s formulation, successful aging consists of three factors: To be relatively free of disability or disease; to retain high cognitive and physical capabilities and to interact with others in meaningful ways.
In Castel’s mind, to age well, we should begin preparing for older adulthood when we’re young, as we develop habits and values—like exercising and eating well—that will help us live productively when we are older. His research indicates, however, that most people do not consider these “terms of agreement” about eventually growing older. That’s why many middle-aged folks are entering their later years with limited savings, limited understanding about growing older or limited well-being.
It occurs to me that those of us who are already older adults—or caregivers for elderly people—could perform a valuable and necessary service for those who are younger than we are—children included. As we age, successfully or not, we can provide wisdom and insight about our present state of well-being. Our experiences—perhaps even those that are not entirely positive—can be instructive to those who will follow us into old age.
Castel seems to indicate that aging well may be more difficult in the coming decades. Our place as teachers or mentors about aging may be even more important than in previous generations.
There’s something hopeful and encouraging in this, with perhaps even a little bit of ministry-thinking mixed in. As I grow older and look for a purpose that I am uniquely equipped to fulfill, it’s possible that one of my sacred ministries right now might just be some form of helping younger generations get ready for their later years. Nothing formal or overbearing, and certainly a humble calling. (That’s part of what compelled me to start this blog series, and what stands as a kind of default/automatic part of my ongoing sense of lifework.)
If Castel is right, and if you feel the pull of this call like I do, it might just be possible that there’s someone close to you who really wants and needs to approach their coming older adulthood with wisdom—the kind you already possess about living fully and productively.
The “terms of agreement” to which we consented in our earlier years most likely included the implied hope that we could age well, successfully, meaningfully and joyfully! Having reached this stage in life, we can help others to consider those same terms, with those same requirements and expectations!
*You can read more of Castel’s observations and research in a recent Next Avenue posting, https://www.nextavenue.org/what-is-successful-aging/