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Conscious aging: How to accept and enjoy life at every stage

What if you could look at the aging process with joy and expectancy? The concept of conscious aging teaches us to accept ourselves as we age, live with a sense of purpose and let go of what society deems “appropriate” for our stage in life.

“Conscious aging is accepting the aging process and the fact that we are all getting older – because that’s the plan,” says Angela Buttimer, MS, NCC, RYT, LPC, a licensed psychotherapist at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “It means not buying into a cultural myth of what a certain age should be like, feel like or act like.”

Conscious aging is countercultural

“We have a billion-dollar antiaging industry in the United States,” she explains. “We herald youth, but really, it’s okay to get older. The goal is to find that balance between accepting that we are getting older without succumbing to the cultural beliefs of who we should be at age 50, 60, 70 and beyond.”

Why are we afraid of getting older?

“In general, we don’t treat older people very well in our country compared to other countries,” says Buttimer. “We set them aside and don’t honor their wisdom. We send a message that as you get older, you become less valuable or even irrelevant. That’s a huge fear many people have about getting older.”

Why is conscious aging beneficial?

Conscious aging positively affects our physical, mental and emotional health.

“When we stay connected to our lifeforce energy and feel vibrant and radiant at every age, our immune system responds positively, as does our sense of well-being,” says Buttimer.

She cautions against telling yourself stories like, “When my grandmother was my age, she had this health condition.”

“When we do this, we will believe our own negative stories and step away from our vitality,” says Buttimer. “We have to be careful of the stories we tell ourselves because they can empower or defeat us.”

How to view aging in a more positive way

There are several ways to view aging in a more positive light:

  • Practice self-acceptance. “Take your power back by making choices that are authentic to you,” she says. “There are so many opinions out there, such as ‘never color your hair’ or ‘you need to color your hair if you have grays.’ But it’s your choice.”

  • Live with a sense of purpose. The key to conscious aging is having a sense of purpose, whether it’s a career, volunteer position or hobby.

  • Make friends with people of all ages. “We often get to a place where we only hang out with friends who are in our own decade,” she says. “Having a broad range of friends is really helpful. I have friends who are 20 and who are over age 90.”

  • Prioritize learning. Audit a college class or pick up a new hobby. The key is to keep your mind engaged by trying new activities and learning about different topics. Cancer Wellness offers many in-person and online classes.

  • Stay active. Exercise helps keep your mind and body in a peak state.

  • Define your own path. “You don’t have to succumb to what people think life should be like at your age or what people have done in the generation before you,” says Buttimer. “With conscious aging, you become your own pioneer.”

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