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 We live in times when youth and beauty are valued over experience and wisdom. That can be bad news for seniors, but it doesn’t have to be.

Many of us look at our reflections in the mirror with something like horror. Our bodies are betraying us. Or as Nora Ephron says, “I feel bad about my neck.” The wrinkles, spots and other indignities make us feel almost as if we’d somehow failed—done something terribly wrong to have ended up this old.

But, while aging does have its challenges, it also brings many blessings and joys if we have eyes to see them.

The Challenges

Loss of physical beauty

Our physical selves are aging day by day. By definition, beauty is fleeting. We don’t have to exactly like this fact, but we do need to accept it. The bloom of youth is gone. What can we do to maximize our physical appearance and then accept our mature self?

Losing friends and family

This is a tough one. If we’ve been fortunate to outlive our friends and family members, we are blessed. But we miss them and mourn their loss. There isn’t much to gain by wondering why some live longer than others, but we can be thankful we’re still living and able to enjoy our lives.

Decreased physical strength and energy levels

Regular exercise and engaging in healthy activities should be our goal. But as we age, we will experience a decrease in physical ability and energy levels. We have to learn to pace ourselves, know our own bodies and their endurance levels and strive to maintain optimal health for our age.

Loss of independence

We begin to notice our children are the ones running the world these days. Will there come a time when we aren’t able to live independently? While we don’t want that to happen, we need to accept that it may. It’s wise to have a contingency plan and to discuss it with family members.

Perceived loss of respect and purpose, becoming “invisible”

Our careers are in the past, we aren’t keeping up with the times, and we often feel that no one hears our thoughts and concerns. It’s easy to feel out of touch and lacking in influence.

Fears of health-related problems such as dementia or serious illness

In the back of our minds we wonder if our health or mental abilities will fail us. We know it is a possibility.

Danger of falling into depression, isolation and pessimism

When we lose important relationships and positions of power, it is a natural outcome to feel “out of the mix.” Seniors need to be proactive in getting out into the community and taking part in any number of second careers, volunteer programs or social activities. It’s worth the effort.

The Joys

Freedom from a work routine

No more setting the alarm clock. No pressure from a hard-to-please boss. All the time in the world to do what you want.

More choices, time for hobbies, mini-careers, volunteering, travel

During the years of a hectic work schedule, you may have had only a few hours per week to make choices for fun activities. Now you have time for all the hobbies and travel you’ve dreamed about.

The joy of family life, grandchildren and the extended family

It was a big responsibility raising a family. Now you reap the benefits of adult children and those precious grandchildren to love and enjoy.

Freedom from the pressures of raising a family and providing

For the most part, you’re done with supporting your family. They’re now providing for themselves and you have the freedom to spend your income on the things you denied yourself earlier.

Perspective on life

You’ve done a lot of living. You’re learned and grown. You have wisdom to impart to the younger generations.

Embracing a Positive Attitude

Happiness is a choice

Ultimately the choice to be happy is, as it’s always been, your choice. Yes, senior years have their challenges, but choose to focus on the positives. Look around at all your community has to offer and get going.

You’ve been fortunate

If you’ve been to a high school, college or family reunion, you know many people your age have already passed on. You’ve been fortunate and have been given many years to enjoy life. Gratitude gives us additional perspective on what is important in life.

Be proactive

Now that you’re free of the alarm clock and long work hours, you have the freedom to do anything you want. Don’t give in to negativity and isolation. Explore your choices and then live as active a life as your health allows.

What can you give?

Perhaps one of the best ways to live joyfully in older years is to give all we can. Can you read stories to children at your local school, teach a class in your community college or church? Can you volunteer your time at a local hospital, hospice or shelter?

It’s true; we are no longer spring chickens. But there’s a lot of life yet to live. Let’s live it gracefully.