It’s no secret that our modern culture is infatuated with youth. From anti-aging creams and hair dyes, demeaning jokes about Baby Boomers, and common phrases like, “Don’t get old,” it almost feels like aging is more of a taboo than it is an asset.
However, perspective is everything, especially when it comes to age. The way one person feels at 50 can be the same way another person feels at 95 (and vice versa).
Some major determining factors of whether or not we “age gracefully” include how mentally, socially, and physically active we are. Although it’s virtually impossible to prevent all of the aches and pains associated with aging, there are quite a few perks worth keeping in mind as we get older. Learning to view age as a positive brings an added glow to our golden years. If we look closely, we can start to see the many benefits of living to celebrate another birthday.
Financial Perks of Aging
You may no longer be at the height of your career, but once you turn 50 and above, there are lots of financial upsides to look forward to. In addition to senior discounts at restaurants, shows, hotels, and more, you can take advantage of key tax benefits. If you choose to retire at age 55 or older, 401k withdrawals are penalty-free. After the age of 59 ½, you can take money from IRA accounts without the 10% penalty fee.
At age 62, reduced Social Security benefits become available. Holding off till age 66 or 67 will let you get the full amount, and if you decide to wait until you’re 70, your monthly check will be nicely padded with delayed retirement credits. How ever you choose to play it, Social Security income offers greater freedom to spend your time the way you want to, rather than feeling stuck in a job that you don’t enjoy (a negative that’s been proven to be much more common in younger age groups).
As we get older, the high cost of health insurance isn’t as much of a burden. State health insurance exchanges are subsidized based on income level, so retiring can end up giving you a much better deal than your previous employer. After age 65, you can sign up for Medicare and pay for premium coverage using Social Security deductions.
Health insurance isn’t the only thing that gets cheaper with age—so does college. Check your local college or university for senior tuition waivers and engage your mind with an affordable education.
Seniors’ Superior Brain Power
We often associate getting older with mental fogginess, forgetfulness, and a loss of quick-thinking skills. Although this can be true for some, several physiological brain changes enhance mental functioning as we age. These include a better ability to express our emotions, gauge the full scope of complex problems, and see a broader range of perspectives.
A process called bilateralization begins during mid-life, increasing the connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. While the left brain is logical and linear, the right brain understands emotion and creativity. In our younger years, we tend to rely on one side of our brain to handle certain tasks and concepts. These two sides become integrated with age, enabling us to harness our full brainpower and embrace a more holistic approach to make sense of the world around us.
Along with better brain-on-brain communication, our verbal communication tends to improve with age as well. Studies have shown that vocabulary expands with age, providing us with a more vibrant arsenal of words to describe our thoughts and ideas. With better language skills comes less frustration and a better ability to articulate emotion.
Seniors also have the added benefit of a wealth of experience to refer back to. Life can be overwhelming and confusing when we face difficult situations for the first time. After earning several decades under our belts, we’re bound to have “been there before” in one capacity or another. After going through issues in our past, we build resilience and collect various viewpoints to better equip us for different roadblocks to come. When you consider the inherent wisdom associated with age, it turns out that maybe having a “senior moment” isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Overcoming Our Ageist Mindset
Despite these perks, it’s not always easy to feel good about getting another year older. If you’ve been struggling with the idea of aging, there are various ways to improve your outlook. First, ditch the idea that you’re too old to do certain things. If something is holding you back, like technical skills, learn to do something new. Take a class, watch a YouTube video, read a manual, or ask a friend to teach you. It’s never too late to learn, and doing so is a great way to keep your mind young and sharp.
Finding ways to be active becomes more important as we get older, and it has the added side effect of boosting your mood. Make an effort to develop a consistent walking habit, dance, join a Silver Sneakers class, go for a swim, or simply do something to keep your body feeling strong and capable. Even if you weren’t big on exercise when you were younger, there’s no better time to get started than today.
Finally, take this time in your life to pursue your dreams. If there are hobbies or goals that you let fall to the wayside, find ways to pick them back up where you left off. Perhaps you always wanted to paint, play an instrument, build something, write a book, learn a new language, or get up on stage and sing karaoke. Now is the time to go for it. Putting purpose back into your life is a surefire way to ignite vitality and rediscover the energy you thought you had lost.
Wise Words About Aging
Since the dawn of modern civilization, humans have grappled with the pros and cons of living to old age. The next time you begin to miss your youth, remember these famous phrases that offer hope and capture the true essence of what it means to grow older.
“In youth we learn; in age we understand.” –Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” –George Bernard Shaw
“Youth is a gift of nature, but age is a work of art.” –Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Sharpening our focus on the things that bring us joy and a sense of purpose, rather than negativity or regret, keeps us young at heart. There is a lot to love about the age we are today. Living to see a new day shadowed by an anthology of experience trailing behind us is a precious gift that can only be hard-won with each passing year. Offering our good sense and sage composure to the world provides a much-needed source of calm, balancing the restless uncertainty of youth.