Sometimes I hear this voice inside my head: “It’s easy for you to be positive about this aging thing, Bob. You’re not neck-deep in troubles!” The voice may be right—“living fully” could feel like empty-headed, Pollyanna-ish puffery if someone’s physical, emotional, financial or relational conditions aren’t all that good. I should probably listen to that voice, too.
If I bent my ear in that direction, I might hear some other ideas about how we older adults can live well in our later years. They might sound something like the following….
Stress, fear and anger require our neurobiology to work only at minimal levels, distracting and disabling whole sections of our brains. Being sick, stuck in poverty, lonely or depressed can keep us from doing anything else except coping with our problems. Voices inside and around us could legitimately wonder, “Where’s the ‘fullness of years’ here/now?”
Some clues to these concerns might be found in the field of positive psychology, tinged with the useful grace notes of spirituality. Another question might help: “What makes you happy/satisfied?” Some of the answers to that question are matters like generosity, gratitude, relationships, love or forgiveness. A focused life-purpose helps increase well-being, if only as a tangible distraction from our problems.
Pursuing basic spiritual virtues may also correlate with deep satisfaction, regardless of circumstances. Surrounding ourselves with hopeful others helps keep negativity at bay. Reclaiming a manageable lifestyle—time, possessions—takes away much of the destructive power of stress.
None of these ideas suggests complete solutions to intractable problems. Still, we can find hope in knowing that a full life—one that is satisfying and productive—is possible even as we acknowledge our struggles.
Another possibility that works for me in my tribulations: Perhaps well-being and fullness-of-life depend on whose Godly voice I listen to….?