How to Age by Anne Karpf

Humor is a way to articulate and manage anxiety. Most people suffer from a fear of ageing. From age 0 to 40, this is a process of immense change. Ageing is a time of stagnation? Is it a time of decline? Age has the ability to heighten our differences. Age doesn’t take away your personality traits. Ageing is not just going downhill and declining. It is still possible to retain information in your brain. Ageing can be enlarging and one shouldn’t be diminished. Try to live creatively. Ageing can be enriching if you can live well. As you age, the more you know and hence it might be easier to face life’s challenges. Learn to age with vitality. One still can be curious in old age. There is a stigma that old people are lonely and should be stigmatised. Ageing is indeed a lifelong process. Death is a final chapter of our story. You can still retain your zest for life as you age.

A long life signals that we’re privileged, either through genetic serendipity, affluence or sheer luck. Woody Allen insisted that he had nothing against growing older ‘since nobody had found a better way of not dying young. – Anne Karpf

The truth is that you age the moment you are born and not age once you past a certain age threshold. Especially for those in their twenties, ageing can be dreadful. Although you get the freedom to do what you want, you have to work for a living. At 25, we have the ability to have empathy and sympathise with others better. Youth is often extended to your 30s nowadays and children are more reliant on their parents for money and support. There is a need to re-think what ageing should be like. In the ‘curious case of Benjamin Button’, a man ages in reverse. You can’t go back against time and human existence is temporal. Our minds and relational capacities change over time as well. Parents love to see their children mature and develop. To age is to be blessed. The following examples will show you how others age gracefully. It is possible to retain your zest for life even in old age.

The idea that young people are indefatigable hedonists, forever in search of their next pleasure-fix, surgically attached to social media, utterly belies the fact that young people are more prone to wrestle with life’s meaning and purpose than older and often more cynical adults. – Anne Karpf

These qualities differ for each of us, but for most people they include finding enduring sources of meaning – in work, or through relationships, interests or making a social contribution; getting to know themselves; making genuine contact with people; and developing a capacity to love – whether people, ideas or experiences. These are essentially internal resources that can be cultivated and drawn upon throughout life. – Anne Karpf

Those who age best are those who travel lightest, who can jettison the prescriptive ideas they’re cleaved to at one stage of their lives when they find them ill-suited to another. – Anne Karpf

For to age is to live and to live is to age, and being anti-age is tantamount to being anti-life. – Anne Karpf

Must you look perfect all the time? There will be an ageing population in the future. Birth rates are falling in developed countries. Ageing must become a burden for the younger taxpayers. Not all old people should be perceived as being lonely. There is no need to focus on loneliness in old age excessively as the young may dread becoming old. Being frail is also one of the problems of ageing. Many artists in the past depicted ageing as the ruin of the body. One way to overcome this is to add humor. Cinema has to be blamed for seeing ageing in a negative light. Learn to put your abilities to good use. In order to age gracefully, one needs to remain vigilant and self-monitoring. There are no elixirs to combat ageing and one needs to face that fact. The anti-ageing market is very big. Ageing is not just a state of mind. There are many prejudices towards ageing in the market and through mass media. Those who have a positive perception of ageing tend to live longer than others. Research has also shown that older people become happier.

Each time we see an older person, we need to imagine them as our future self, and, rather than recoil from their wrinkles or infirmities, applaud their resilience. We need to re-humanize older people, to attribute to them the same rich internal world, set of passions and network of complex human relationships that we assume exist in younger people and in ourselves. – Anne Karpf

At some point or other, age resistance becomes frankly futile – you’ll either die or start to look old – but the energy you use to accept the fact of ageing but refuse its stereotypes will serve you well for the rest of your life. – Anne Karpf

Learn to exhibit resourcefulness. Time is not a thief. Learn to embrace it. You don’t need to get approval from others as you age. Learn to tolerate sadness and grief at any age. Some of the people you interview feel younger than they actually are. Ageing doesn’t cause you to lose vitality. Learn to be passionate. Passions did not diminish over time. The brain in mid-life can remain supple. The brain is like a muscle and it can be strengthened over time. Creativity is unrelated to ageing. Ageing can make one more creative. Learning should never stop at any age. Learn to put yourself first. Even in imminent death, one can find meaning in living. Young people are sometimes more focussed on making money. Pain can be modified and be replaced by optimism and love. When you have found your identity, it is easier to make better relationships with others.

Throughout the life cycle, change and continuity weave an intricate web. As we meet the new challenges, both physical and psychological, with which our lives confront us, so then we are changed, even as we remain the same. Old age is no different from the other stages of life in this regard. The changes are many and real; to deny them, as some do in an attempt to counter ageism, is folly. – Molly Andrews

If there’s a single preoccupation that drives people from midlife onwards, it’s this search for meaning in their lives; the midlife crisis – if indeed such a thing exists – could be said to be a crisis of meaning. It leads us to question how we’ve lived our lives so far – whether we’ve lived the way we thought we ought, rather than as we truly wished – and sometimes make radical changes. – Anne Karpf

Age conferred a degree of power for the Greeks as most of their rulers were old people. Some of the terms used to describe people can be discouraging indeed. This book features a number of examples of old people portrayed in movies and in the media. Do not see everyone as your rival. Even in Japan, the young feel burdened that they need to take care of the old. There is also the issue of intergenerational wealth gaps. Learn to ignore those reports that talk about the young. Although apartheid is no longer present, age-apartheid might be present. The problem is that some of the young do not have much contact with the elderly as well. If you don’t have to deal with old people, you will have the tendency to screen them out. Learn to integrate the ages. Learn to embrace people from different ages.

For women, beauty is associated with youthfulness. Women find it more difficult to re-marry once they become older. Majority of women also seem unhappy with the way they look. Some women turn to cosmetic surgery to make themselves look young. Young women are also concerned about ageing. Women change after menopause. There are even products for males to look young and good. Know yourself better and listen to yourself more. The ability to love and desire does not quell with age. It is possible to have a sexual relationship with someone much older. There is really no fixed template for ageing. You have to age your own way which you see fit. It is important to understand the prejudices that are associated with ageing in order to combat them.

Death is a taboo topic in recent times. To modern societies, death is seen as a medical failure. One way to overcome this is to think more frequently about your own mortality. Form the habit when you are young. There is something deeply humbling about this experience.

One must live as though one were dying – and we all are, of course – because then the priorities become clear. – May Sarton

See your life as a single entity. Try your best to connect with your future self. Learn to identify with older people. It is okay to feel weak when you are old. It is okay to ask for help when you need it. Mourning and gratitude must be cultivated. For old people, life can be good without excessive consumption. Some old people even volunteer their time to help others. Our souls need to sing.

Old age is a time of relinquishing – friends, old roles, even possessions that belonged to earlier stages of life. Yet at every stage of life some attachments need to be given up for others to develop, in order to move forward. – Anne Karpf

We may mock those forever praising ‘a nice cup of tea’, or who, when they go to bed at night, look back on their day in search of things to be grateful about. It may feel a little mechanical but, if practised regularly, learning to appreciate small gestures, tiny pieces of good fortune and, equally, the lack of bad things becomes a very valuable habit indeed. – Anne Karpf

Remember that life is always an adventure. Add new resources and qualities as you age. Growing old is a privilege. Ageing is a lifelong process.

Acknowledging death graces us with a sense of perspective: it reminds us that we have only a finite number of breaths; it makes us ask ourselves “How will I feel when I get to the end of my life having done/without having done this?” – Anne Karpf

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