Ageing is a challenge because it brings us face to face with our mortality. No matter how we may think about “life after death”, our death still means letting go of everything we are familiar with, everyone we love, everything we own and everything we have experienced.
As we age, at some point we find ourselves spending more time contemplating, avoiding or relating to the fact that we don’t go on forever. When I was 20, 80 seemed very far away. Now it is close.
There is significance to turning 20—it is about becoming grown up. At 30, we’re more focused on the direction of our life. At 40, we begin to face ageing. At 50, we have now lived a long time, and can look back at the many turns life had taken. At 60, something new is going on: we’re looking back at the past a little less than we’re looking ahead at what’s left of life.
There are a lot of questions when we begin to focus on “How much time is left?” How do you feel about the life choices you’ve made? How is your physical health shaping your life? What do you want to do with the rest of your life? Do you have aspirations that have gone untended? How does your economic standing affect your ageing? Have you completed the conversations that are most important with those you love? Have you grappled with how you want to die, to the extent you can prepare for that moment? What would you prefer happens with your body? Have you sorted out what follows for those you leave behind?
These are only a few of the many possible questions that arise as we age. What are yours? Even if you are still young in your mind, how do you see the ageing people around you? Are ageing people valued elders, or cast-offs to be warehoused? How will these attitudes affect your ageing, now or later?
For earlier stages of life: babyhood, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, even early retirement, there are many templates that make the territory at least somewhat knowable. For many people the numerous unknowns of ageing are the most challenging. As we get older the blue-prints fade. We have to make our own way, whether solo or in the company of others. And when we meet our death, even if we are surrounded by loved ones, we are the only one with the capacity to be truly present to our death.
Can we share and explore these questions? This is also one of the main tasks of therapy–to explore how ageing affects my clients. I am open to discovering further questions and answers with any person who wants to sit with me and pursue this journey.