Thriving as we get older
Okay, so if we’re all getting older all the time, what’s a guy to do about it? If you think of “middle age” as being something that starts about, oh, age 50, ask yourself: how many 100 year olds do you know? The truth is that most of us will start the middle third of our lives beginning about age…25 or 28 or so. Yikes!
Aging sort of sneaks up on us, and many of us are none to happy about it. We look at the stereotype of the older person (less healthy, less attractive, etc.) and hope that doesn’t happen to us. Or we let internalized homophobia spook us with fears about the “lonely old queen.” Or we imagine a future of driving around Arizona with an Airstream trailer in tow. Ick, we think. Who wants to end up like that?
No one stays young forever. And few sights are less attractive than someone who is 49 dressing and acting like they’re 29. We need better alternatives.
Some older person once said, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” Taking care of ourselves is important throughout the lifespan. Most gay men have the exercise thing figured out, although some of us would probably benefit from making sure our cardiovascular fitness keeps up with those muscles we love so much.
Physical self-care means more than spending time at the gym. If your life involves lots of stress, you’re adding to the wear and tear that accompanies getting older. And men whose social lives involve endless weekends of partying would do well to consider the effects of alcohol and recreational drugs on their physical well-being.
Successful aging also means paying attention to what’s important in your life. Everyone’s list of priorities would be a bit different, but most of us would include meaningful work and satisfying relationships on the agenda.
Too bad that it’s so easy to procrastinate in making the sort of changes that bring about greater satisfaction. Your older self – even just 2 or 3 years older – will thank you for taking the time to do what you need to do right now to make yourself happier.
Financial security is another aspect of aging that is too easily overlooked. While most of us won’t be putting kids through college or paying for expensive weddings, neither will we have a younger generation to form a fiscal safety net. If we value our independence, we better look to ourselves to pay the bills when we retire.
How does your financial debt compare to your savings? Are you going to be OK when you retire? What gives your life meaning and purpose? Dancing with the boys at the club all night is fine, but is it enough for the long run? Having a network of healthy friendships is important. So is developing a capacity for intimacy and commitment.
Getting older is ultimately something of a spiritual matter. Somewhere along the line we face the issue of what gives our life value. Younger men can get distracted and caught up in relying on what lies on the surface of human existence – the right look, the right body, the right social scene. If they become older men with the same set of criteria, they are likely to be unhappy.
Finally, find happy men and women older than you and become friends with them. Doing so will help you find role models for your own life, and will help you understand that life can be rich and fulfilling at any age.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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