Recently, I came across an interesting article on “The Book of Life” website, headlined “How the Modern World Makes Us Mentally Ill” see http://www.thebookoflife.org/how-the-modern-world-makes-us-mentally-ill/).
The article identified six aspects of modern life known to have troubling influences on our psyches (along with suggested cures): meritocracy, individualism, secularism, romanticism, the media, and perfectibility. As I read though these, I thought about how they might apply to getting old, which, in my estimation, jumpstarts once you turn 60, when we reach the beginning of the final three-innings of life (or less depending on your fate).
Meritocracy: If you are both poor and old, you are an utter failure in our overly meritocratic society that places talent and hard work as surefire traits that will ultimately lead to your financial success. Never mind that serendipity may have passed you by. Never mind that you may be an extraordinarily intelligent and talented individual who may have ran into some hard times for reasons you could not control. In addition to being overtly ignored and disrespected because of your poverty status, you will have to deal with ageism, which is real, despite all the positive news you might read about how executive-level, retirement-aged folks are easily taking on new “encore” careers. Best solution: Don’t think along these lines and keep on keeping on. Follow your inner voice.
Individualism: In the 21st century, being an ordinary person moving through the flow of life is often seen as the equivalent of being a mass failure. Only unique individuals with special destinies are worthy of our esteem. In old age, some become depressed when they realize they haven’t reached fame and fortune. Best anecdote for such ill thoughts: Appreciate what you have and enjoy the everyday, simple pleasures of life.
Secularism: As the growth of secularism moves further away from religiosity and the spiritual, we neglect to see anything that could be considered transcendent, to our detriment. Old age, however, can make you more contemplative and hence more in tune with seeing more beauty and art in our everyday experiences. Look up more!
Romanticism: Not everyone meets the perfect love of their life, so perhaps it is wise not to expect to be so lucky and avoid all the frustration. Take pleasure in your non-sex-oriented relationships and loves.
The Media: Focus more on your own life and experiences and do not let all the negative, fear-mongering news so prevalent today take over your thoughts and feelings. Try to follow news that offers solutions as opposed to fear and loathing. I think we do eventually succeed at avoiding all the drama as we age. It’s one of the advantages of becoming a mellow old ager.
Perfectibility: If, in old age, you start thinking that your life has been a waste of energy because you have not reached some level of perfection promoted by a society that over-emphasizes typically unreachable goals and ideals, think again. The realization that being a little off-centered and even crazy-stupid at times in our lives makes you humble and more accepting of your vulnerabilities. Life goes on and you’re perfectly fine.