Ageless Soul: #A-Z Challenge

“Aging is an activity. It is something you do, not something that happens. When you age–active verb–you are proactive. If you really age, you become a better person. If you simply grow old, passively, you get worse.”

Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy by Thomas Moore

Several friends recently turned 60. I’m not quite there but I’m in the vicinity–58 3/4. We hide our fears with jokes like this one from Woody Allen: “I just turned 60. Almost a third of my life is over.”

But Moore claims that aging has more in common with cheese and wine than it does with a number. Just as some cheeses and wines improve over time, “If you let life shape you, then as time goes by, you will become a richer, more interesting person.”

And ultimately, says Moore, “your very purpose in life is to age, to become what you are; essentially, to unfold and let your inborn nature be revealed.”

Isn’t that interesting? Aging isn’t an unavoidable decline that happens to you while you busily pursue your chosen life purpose. Aging IS your purpose.

Five Stages in the Aging Process

Moore identifies five basic stages in the aging process:

  1. Feeling immortal
  2. First taste of aging
  3. Settling into maturity
  4. Shifting toward old age
  5. Letting things take their course

At each stage, you might feel a small shock, what Moore calls a small wakening. He says we need the impact of these shocks so that we don’t let time pass by without reflection, and a deliberate, conscious response to the stage.

If you’re having trouble accepting your current stage, here’s a short (under 3 minutes) video by Thomas Moore. It might help.

When I listen to Moore’s conception of aging, I think of those babies or toddlers who are referred to as ‘old souls.’ Wouldn’t it be wonderful to someday be an old soul–to have someone look into your eyes and see a gentle, calm wisdom? To allow yourself to be shaped by life, rather than trying to force your will and have life progress as you, with your limited knowledge, think that it should?

Where are you in the aging process? How do you know?

56 comments

  1. Karen, I’m at the “letting things take their course” stage, and I don’t mind at all. I listen to my daughters (both of whom are almost 50) and they are feeling the first signs of aging. But all three of us agree that what we have learned over our lives has helped us to accept what is inevitably coming – hopefully with grace and gratitude for our experiences. I think the most difficult part of growing much older, is the physical limitations, the fact that I cannot do the things I used to do – frustrating to say the least.

    1. Good morning, Anna.
      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts. I get hints of the physical limitations when, despite workouts and daily walks with my dogs, I am out of breath climbing short hills, or am exhausted (way beyond simply tired) for no apparent reason. I’m still at the point where I think that if I’m more physically active and I eat better, all limitations will disappear. It must indeed be beyond frustrating to get to that point where your body overrides your determination. I think that’s what Moore is talking about when he speaks of allowing aging to happen, but for sure, it’s not easy.

  2. I’d like to think that I’m just settling into maturity – although those who know me well might suggest that even then, I’m doing reluctantly. However, given that the calendar has my age north of 60, I have to admit I’m starting to stare down old age.

    Maybe I’m missing the point, but ‘allowing aging to happen’ seems redundant to me. Whether we like it or not, it’s happening. I prefer to think of aging as a privilege because not all of us ultimately get to experience it … and then of course, some of us do it better than others.

    Great start with the Letter “A”!

    1. Hi Joanne,
      You may well be just settling into maturity! Aging has little to do with the number on the calendar. As for allowing aging to happen, so many people actually don’t do that. They fight it with newer and younger partners, cosmetic surgery, a refusal to think about their age…. Moore would say that allowing aging to happen is a gentle, accepting process and you’re right – some definitely do that better than others.
      Thanks for checking in and commenting, Joanne. I truly appreciate it.

  3. Hi,

    I am almost at a magical number where I need to make some health insurance choices, so I’ve been thinking about my flexibility and mobility and how I might handle any lack of it…

    And yesterday, I broke a crown on nothing… it reminded me of a saying from my elderly neighbor, whose aunt used to say, “Esther, it’s hell getting old!” But better than the alternative… however, I believe there are many alternatives

    https://bethlapinsatozblog.wordpress.com/

    1. Hi Beth,
      I just had a similar discussion with my banking officer. I’m single so the question of how to manage care when and if I need it loomed large. At times it’s all a bit overwhelming but, as you say, it’s better than the alternative.

  4. I like that aging isn’t as awful as it used to look. We seem to be doing the ‘getting older’ business better than our predecessors and I’m hoping we’ll do old age well too. I’m 56 and I like the idea of Midlife rather than middle-aged – it’s a perception thing and I think that makes all the difference to aging positively. Sometimes 60 sounds old – then I look at my 60 year old friends and they seem younger than me!

    Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
    A for Avoid Negativity

    1. Hi Leanne,
      My friends who have celebrated their 60th birthdays worry a bit about becoming invisible. I’d like to scoff, but wonder if I’ll feel the same when I hit that milestone.
      I agree with you that perception matters. One day maybe our society will get to the point where aging is perceived as positive rather than negative or, at best, neutral. Maybe our blogging will help us be part of that change.

  5. Wow, great start to the A-Z, Karen!
    I think I am at Stage 5, but sometimes I wonder (OK, seriously doubt) if I will gracefully accept the inevitable physical limitations that will come. However I am determined to become a fine wine as opposed to turning to vinegar so hopefully I can keep that goal in mind. 😉

    Deb

    1. From reading your posts, Deb, I think I can confidently state that you won’t ever be vinegar. Even when the worst things in life have been tossed at you, you pick yourself up and move forward with wit and humour. Okay, sometimes an acerbic wit, but with nevertheless!

  6. This is lovely! Isn’t Thomas Moore always so wonderful? Thanks for this clip. I enjoy his thoughts on the aging process. At 65, I think I’m just at #3, settling into maturity. I recently called a friend – who is the same age as me – about the obituary of a mutual acquaintance. “What is it with all that ‘senior citizen’ and old age stuff she was involved in,” I asked,flabbergasted, “She was younger than us!” My friend reminded me, calmly, that she would still qualify for that “senior” designation. “Well!” I answered, “I am far too young for that!”

    1. Your comment makes me chuckle, Cindy, and reminds me of my Scottish aunt. She died recently at the age of 96. For years before her death, she volunteered at nursing homes, leading art classes for what she referred to as “her old people.” She was at least ten years older than the oldest of them, but never saw herself that way.

  7. Ooooh, I love snack size posts! I have often been told I have an old soul, even in my younger years I did not do foolish things I was more laid back. My friendships were usually with people older than myself – I never fit in with people in my age group. We simply didn’t see things the same way. When I went to driver’s ed my friend Peggy and I were the oldest in the class and we both got along famously. I was in my late 30s and she was in her early 60s.

    I would think I am just settling into maturity. I have felt my first taste of ageing. I have some health problems and a left hip that sometimes clicks and grinds the beginnings of arthritis. Ugh…I am not sure but at 56 I am slowly creeping up to 60 myself. Time seems to fly these days. It feels like the older you get the faster it goes. I am trying to let ageing flow and not force my agenda on life – there is a wisdom to that I think. Thomas Moore has it right I believe…there is a lot of wisdom in what he says.

    I don’t mind the whole email thing either, Karen, I look at it as this, the way you are going to do the emails gives me the option of opening each daily email or just delete it and wait for Thursday as always. 🙂 Nicely thought out to give equal respect to those of us who are long-standing members of the tribe and those just joining us thanks to the A-Z Challenge with its daily posts for the month of April. What a great kick-off to the Challenge you have here – looking forward to the rest!

    1. Thanks, Susan for commenting and for being okay about the daily emails. Appreciated!

      I like the word ‘flow’ applied to aging. Maybe you think that way because you are an old soul? Another very nice image. 🙂

  8. This is a great post, and the comments are wonderful, too! I know I’m going to enjoy this month of wisdom from you, Karen! I’d say I’m between stages 2 and 3, having sent one kid off to college and the other to follow in a year and a half. It really is a time to wonder what comes next!

  9. I’m definitely to the point that aging isn’t a concern (because it’s a fait accompli). Surprisingly, it is fine. The only bad part is the aches and pains!

    1. Great attitude, Jacqui. It sounds as if you’re comfortable flowing with aging – that is except when you are physically uncomfortable! Thanks for being here.

  10. Karen, I think I’m a 2 physically and a 3 mentally. I like the “settling into maturity” that’s happened to me in the last couple of years – I’m more positive, more accepting, more active… dare I say happier! Yet, I’m just beginning to feel the first impacts of physical aging…while I am more flexible, stronger, and have more balance than ever (thanks to yoga and zumba), the arthritis, joint pain, and slower recovery tells me that physical aging of the body is definitely starting.

    I think of my mom when I think of “old” now… It’s only been in the past 2-3 years that she has actually started to show “old age” elements – so at 84, she’s shifting into old age. I have years to go before that happens…. years to be settled in maturity.

    1. I’m so glad that yoga and zumba are working for you. I’ve never tried zumba but it seems to me that you’d have to be in pretty decent shape to be doing it. It’s a lot of bouncing around!

      I thought of you when I wrote this post because of Moore’s assertion that aging is our purpose and we need no other. Not sure yet where I stand on that one, but I found it interesting.

    1. So true, Aesha. I wonder if you’ll still feel the same way in twenty years. There’s something about sixty that tends to put people into a whole new territory.

  11. I don’t like to think of age as a number. Learning, growing, gaining knowledge, and moving forward (not growing older). Great post and a wonderful start to the A-Z Blogging Challenge!

  12. Hi, Karen – Congratulations on your great start to the A to Z Challenge. I agree that aging is a privilege and is a wonder to watch unfold at every stage. This past Christmas, my parents, children, grandchildren (including grandson), my husband and I shared a ski chalet together. It was incredible to watch aging (“life”) unfold for each of us. There were more similarities than differences. I am incredibly grateful to have had that experience.

    1. Hi Donna,
      I can only imagine how wonderful that Christmas experience must have been for you and your family. When you wrote about it, I envied your tight-knit family that made such an amazing time a possibility. You are indeed fortunate… and you have a birds-eye view of the aging process from cradle on up!

  13. Great start on your A to Z journey! No worries about the daily emails, especially if they just contain a link to your post (I wondered how you planned to link to your posts when I read your intention not to email every day).

    I think I’m currently at all the stages! 1) I am in total denial about the eventuality of my demise (ain’t gonna happen, I feel too good); 2) My face is telling me that, in fact, aging is taking place; 3) I continue to settle into maturity, although I sometimes act like a kid; 4) Even if I wanted to, I can’t argue with the calendar; and, 5) Although I try to eat well and exercise, my intention is to feel good, not stop the aging process. I have no desire to have facial surgery or find a younger partner (I have mine all trained… why would I want to start all over again?).

    1. Now there’s a pragmatic response, Janis! Especially that last sentence. Love it!
      I remember telling my high school English teacher that I had no intention of dying…ever. She was amused. I was serious. I couldn’t say that I’m in total denial anymore, but I sure don’t like to think about it. Everything else you say is ditto for me.
      Thanks for being understanding about the daily emails. I hadn’t quite thought that one through.

  14. Your opening section reminded me of a cross-stitch my mother made me one year which says “Age isn’t important unless you’re a cheese”. I think I was only 40: maybe I seemed worried about it at the time. Well, at 60, I feel that like good cheese and fine wine I have matured well! And like Miss Jean Brodie, I am in my prime.

    1. You are indeed in your prime, Anabel. That is evident in every one of your posts. So you won’t be offended if we start referring to you as “Anabel, that wonderful cheese”? I’m smiling because all of this cheese talk is reminding me of my favourite teacher, Mr. Auld. When he wanted to tell us that something was ‘tough luck’ he wouldn’t say that and he wouldn’t use the expression ‘hard cheese.’ Instead, Mr. Auld’s colourful expression was “Stiff cheddar!” I love that.

  15. This article is a gem. It is a great way to reframe the notion of getting older. The quote you use is a keeper for me!

    1. Hi Fran – For me too. I like to feel that I have some say over how this whole aging thing goes; not that I can stop the process, but that I can participate in making it a process of growth rather than decay. I love the idea that aging may be our true purpose in life.

  16. I loved this post. I’m shifting toward old age. I’m somewhat obsessed with it. I write a blog about it. I wrote a book about it which is coming out in April. I’m struggling in this phase and find writing about it theraputic. I’m going to buy this book because the video was so moving.

    1. Hi Cathi,
      I’ve just started following and reading your blog and am already looking forward to buying your book. It comes out this month? That’s so exciting!
      Ageless Soul is a good book. I always make notes from books that I enjoy. I have 13 pages of notes from this one.

  17. I’m a bit ahead of you in the process–62–and thoroughly enjoying this stage! Kids are finally (two months ago!) out of the house and all on their own, time, health and means to travel and explore and create. Good luck with the challenge (both A-Z and aging into an Old Soul!)

    1. Hi Gail,
      Thanks so much for stopping by. How wonderful the phrase “time, health and means to travel and explore and create.” No wonder you are enjoying this stage of life, and anticipating more good things to come.

  18. Thanks for such a lovely, optimistic post to start out the challenge. When I was just 4 or 5 one of my aunts said I was like a little old lady, and I’m not sure what she meant by that (don’t think it had anything to do with wisdom). Now, when I could be considered an old lady, I’m still able to fool some into thinking of me as younger than I really am. Hoping to keep that going by continuing to find new things that I can do, challenging myself and being aware of all the great things happening around me. It’s true, we can find great purpose in growing older. Btw: Thomas Moore is a handsome old man, isn’t he?

    1. Indeed he is, Shirley! Although my personal preferences have always run to the rugged Kris Kristofferson type. Who am I kidding? My personal preference is for Kris Kristofferson, full stop!
      I hope your aunt meant that you were an old soul. With the ways you’ve said you’re continuing to run your life – new things, challenges, awareness – it would make sense to have been an old soul because you are certainly wise.

  19. What a wonderful first post for your A-Z challenge, Karen. I can relate to the small shocks along the aging process. For example, I turn 65 later this year and almost every day I get a phone call or mailing urging me to hand over my future Medicare dollars over to an insurance company. As if I could forget this milestone is on the way these people won’t let me forget about it and let me enjoy being 64! It is hard for me to believe I am this old and yet I rest in the knowledge that I’m still in the ‘youth of old age.’

    1. The phone calls you get Molly make me think of the telemarketers who regularly call me trying to sell me their duct cleaning services. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve explained, with varying degrees of patience, that I don’t have ducts, because I don’t have a furnace, because my house is slab on grade and I don’t have a basement.

      Your telemarketers need to understand that you will make your own decisions about insurance because you don’t live in fear, because you are a positive and vibrant woman, because that’s just how you roll, and besides you’re a nurse and know better than they do what’s happening or not happening in your body.

  20. I think about my father, he is 87 now. (I always have to do the math to remember!) He has become more of who I imagine he was as a young man over these last 15 years or so since retirement. Maybe 20 years….

    I am 56 myself and I am definitely aware of the physical changes and I am ok with aging, I don’t have a lot of the fears of mortality that many others do – perhaps because I have lost so many people in my lifetime. I have loved well.

    I appreciate your message here. Grateful to have found you!

    1. Thank you, Julie. That’s very kind of you. And I am already enjoying your literary grannies A-Z postings. It’s going to be a great month!

      It’s tremendous that your life is not run by a fear or denial of death. I suspect that gives you much more freedom to enjoy your time.

  21. Hi Karen we are certainly on the same wavelength as I started my AtoZ with Ageless Attitude. I turned 60 last year and I celebrated. In reality though there aren’t many days when I think about my age. I’m too busy trying new things, keeping fit and active and enjoying my grandchildren, family and friends. Yes, our bodies will age but we shouldn’t let age define us. Looking forward to your ‘B’ tomorrow. Have a great day!

    1. I know. That made me grin when I saw your post this morning. You have ageless attitude. I have ageless soul. Since mine are book titles, we probably won’t parallel quite as closely throughout the challenge, although maybe still with our topics. It will be interesting to see.
      I’ve got a year and a bit more turning 60 and already I’m wondering how many wonderful ways I can celebrate that milestone. I’ll have to look back through your posts to see what you did.

  22. I think we often look at aging as if we are shutting down. Well, I began doing that in my 30s. Now that I have gotten better at managing my energy, I feel better about my age. Aging doesn’t have to be something we do kicking and screaming along the way. I look forward to many things I plan on doing when the kids are out of the house. It will be a golden time of life.

    1. It absolutely will be golden, Heather, especially with that attitude. I agree that managing energy has a lot to do with our sense of well-being no matter our age. I’m interested to know how you learned to manage your energy. I’ll look through your post archive to see if there are clues.

  23. Karen, I read this quote once and have adopted it (I hope) as I move towards my next 0…
    Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”

  24. Congrats, Karen, on a great start to your A to Z Challenge! I’m about a day or two behind with my comments due to a fun family get-together over the weekend. I’ll echo Janis’ comments 🙂

  25. I’m 61. I was sitting here puzzling over what stage I am in, unable to decide because they all sounded kind of true. And then I read Janis’s perfect response. So, yep, me too.

    Honestly, most minutes of most days, I live as though I believe that I am immortal. But I have lost several close friends and family members to death, and that is a bitter reminder of aging. I started settling into maturity when I stopped saying to myself, “But I’m just a kid,” which coincided with having my children, and I think I am still settling in in a different way now that I have retired and am exploring my passions. However, I am peeking over the threshold to old age, especially on clumsy days, or those times when it takes not a few minutes to find the word that is on the tip of my tongue, but a few hours or days. And finally, letting life take its course — well that happens too, more often now as my time is less dictated by the clock and calendar, and I have more time to daydream and observe the beautiful world around me.

    Jude

  26. Karen,
    I think I can be in any one of the five stages depending on the day! But for the most part, I enjoy life as it comes — this may be because I’m a recent 3/4 time empty-nester. I’ve never been too concerned about bodily aging so that doesn’t concern me, but I do appreciate the emotional ‘letting go’ that comes with age.

    1. Hi Janet,
      Great to see you here! Welcome! It seems to be a consensus that many of us do a fair bit of moving through the five stages, sometimes so much so it’s a wonder we don’t get nosebleeds 🙂 An almost complete empty-nester. Hmm. How’s that going for you? I read a memoir by a woman who really struggled with her kids leaving home. If that interests you, it’s called “Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment” by Katrina Kenison.

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