|Pro-aging looks like this.|
~Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard
AS ATTITUDES GO, SEVENTY YEARS YOUNG IS BETTER THAN FORTY YEARS OLD
I am grateful that at the age of fifty I had a significantly positive, long-lasting, life-changing experience. It happened during a men’s drumming retreat weekend in the Texas woods.
Around the campfire, we discussed rites of passage, why they are significant, and how they are maintained in Native American cultures but largely discarded in contemporary “American” culture, where we have come to worship youth and discard our elderly. Too bad for America.
The retreat leaders prepared us for a rite of passage that would induct all of the men age fifty and older into a Council of Elders. The campfire ceremony took on a sacred aura. The larger group was instructed in the importance of respect for the wisdom of elders. I’m not sure how it affected the other “elders” but, in a mystical flash being formally elevated to this status changed my mindset about aging from fear and anxiety to positive expectancy.
The anticipation of more wisdom and the insights one can only attain with age has stayed with me. It makes it easier for me to embrace and accept the changes that come with aging.
|Native American Elders|
I did not know then that studies would later show that this kind of attitude is associated with increased longevity and better health. I feel like a lucky guy to have been in that place at that time.
BETTER WITH AGE
A great advantage of the work that I do with laughter –which I now believe can accurately be described as delivering happiness—is that I can do it for as long as strength, energy and enthusiasm hold out. I expect there will be large numbers of us doing a great job of it in our 80’s, 90’s, and beyond.
|Rx: A Lifetime of Laughter|
Long ago, I discovered that there are aspects of therapeutic laughter that cannot be taught.
They can only be learned from experience.
In some health & human services occupations these insights might be called “clinical judgment”.
It takes practice and feedback, trial and error sometimes, in order for us to form the mind-body pathways that we call higher skills, mastery, and smooth delivery.
Think about learning to ride a bicycle, drive a car, tie your shoes, fold an omelet, or navigate your hard drive.
With repetition, those pathways are virtually permanently programmed into our psycho-bio-neurological systems. Often, they feel like a combination of A-ha! & Ooh-ah! & Ha-ha!
Leading therapeutic laughter and delivering happiness, and doing it really well, is like that.
If you keep having experiences—even so-called failures—and you learn from them, you are getting better with age.
It means that you can look forward to getting even better with more aging.
It means that you can enthusiastically embrace a pro-aging mindset even in the midst of our anti-aging culture.
|“Elder” Wavy Gravy at Earthdance 2006|
The best is yet to come.
Okay, that long-winded set-up leads to an important question for discussion. Positive psychology and Happiness expert, Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, suggests we think about and exchange our ideas about aging this way:
Regarding any part of your life, in what ways have you developed and improved over time, with age?
Thinking back to any earlier point in your life, you might want to finish the starter: “If I knew then what I know now…”
Please respond here –and include how long you’ve been at it– so we all can learn from each other.