Age is number, but old is a state of mind…

I seldom think about aging, although I am now more often reminded by a new ache or pain, about the fact that it is happening to me. I really like a couple of quotes that appeared not too long ago in the Jack’s Winning Words blog –

“Whenever I complain that things aren’t what they used to be, I always forget to include myself.”  (George Burns)

“Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.”  (Victor Hugo)

Victor HugoVictor Hugo was before my time, but I have fond memories of watching George Burns and Gracie Allen on TV when I was younger. I don’t spend much time complaining about how things aren’t what they used to be. For the most part things are better. Our modern conveniences would have been unimaginable in the “good ole days”; and life is generally better for them. Perhaps, of the two quotes, Hugo’s is most applicable to me.  While good genes have prevented a complete white out on my head, my age does show a bit there. Fortunately, I am able to experience eternal spring in my heart because I still find day-to-day life to be so interesting and way too much fun to let age slow me down.

The main thing that I find so much joy in is meeting and interacting with new people.handshake There is so much to learn from everyone that we meet that is it a shame when some people allow age to trap them into isolation. For some it is not their desire to be isolated but their physical disabilities that prevents them from getting out and interacting with others. There are many people trapped in their own homes or in care facilities who thirst for human interactions. That is why I have recommended in the past that people volunteer for jobs like Meals on Wheels or to visit care facilities and just talk to people. Drivers for Meals on Wheels will tell you that many of the people they serve are as happy to be able to talk to someone as they are about getting the food.

Back on topic; I’ve written here before about trying not to lose the ability to play ( see my post – Reclaim your ability to play) ; to get lost in the wonder of something; to be young at heart. It is that ability that Hugo was writing about. The story Peter Pan was about that same thing; how we lose our childhood ability to fly (if only in our minds) and live with Peter Pan in Neverland. It is something that is actually stolen from us by those older than us who have already lost it themselves. It is the need to “grow up” and “act like a man”. Childlike wonder at life and the ability to enjoy it without reservations is never really lost; but we are taught that we need to suppress those things; that it is not acceptable to behave like a child anymore. Life, after all, is serious stuff.

I’ve also written here about not losing that ability to sneak back into that childlike mode of pure fun from time to time or as needed. I called that post “Put a Little humor in your life” but it was really about being able to get back to that childlike state of mind that can allow you to laugh at yourself and at life by making a funny face in the mirror in the smiling dogmorning. Sure, real life is serious stuff; but, that doesn’t mean that you have to be serious about living it every single moment – you’ll serious yourself into old age and death that way.

In addition to keeping your ability to let go of seriousness every now and then and just playing (if only in your mind); the other thing that can keep getting old at bay is to never stop learning. I read recently in BusinessWeek that a recent trend is for retirees to go back to school to learn a new skill or even a new trade. It is apparently a big thing with people retiring who have risen to important positions in their business life and now face the prospect of life without the challenges that they so enjoyed in that success. Many chose to take their business skills and apply them in non-profit or charitable organizations, but a growing number chose to change directions completely and head off into a second career in fields like health care or education – field where they can be of service to others. For them it is a way to avoid getting old, no matter what their age. Henry Ford understood this concept years ago when he said, “Anyone who brain mapstops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

So, never stop learning and never lose the ability to play, to have fun in your mind. Age is just a state of mind; and, as Mark Twain said – “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Have a great day and stay young – make a funny face in your mirror this morning.

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