The Change Equation – The Body Aging

A few days ago, as I briskly walked the Vancouver Seawall, a young couple ran passed me with the elegance and confidence of two gazelles. A few steps behind me, a young mother held the hand of a toddler learning to walk alongside her. That’s when I thought, I am living the Riddle of the Sphinx. You know how it goes…

What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?

 The solution of course is a man who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age.

When we talk about change, we consider it to be an external influence – it occurs because some catalyst has made it happen.  Change appears at our doorstep when someone or something or some circumstance forces it upon us. It is an outside stimulus that generates a defensive response that includes staying positive, eating right and having a manageable exercise program. We register for the latest technology courses and sign up for a series of inspirational talks, read a motivating book and involve ourselves with friends and family that support and encourage our progress. We move forward by accepting new ideas and participating within an ever shifting environment.

There is another kind of change that is more difficult to accept, let alone embrace with enthusiasm.  We are finite creatures that live on a timeline. We call it the aging process which is a nice way of saying that our bodies are growing old. The equation contracts to a simple:

Time = 0

Aging occurs at twenty just as quickly as it does at 60.  In fact, Time = 0 happens many times over our lifetime, simply because our bodies are no longer able to compete in a specific arena.  We see this often in sports – hockey players, professional skaters, downhill skiers. Athletes have a few competitive peak years until they hand the baton over to others with younger, more agile bodies. The same can be said for dancers. The average age of a prima ballerina does not fall into the forties decade. Even singers have an optimum age when their voices are strong and assured.

Aging is a physical process that may take away time, but it also gives us a deeper understanding of our humanity.  Without our bodies, we would not see a beautiful sunrise or snow on a mountaintop; experience the warmth of a summer day or the chill of a winter’s breath; hear a child’s laugher, the music of an orchestra, or the crashing sounds of waves on a beach; walk on a grassy knoll or climb the steps to the Parthenon.

There will come a day when our hair will turn grey, the laughter wrinkles will be more pronounced and we take the first step with a cane.  Celebrate, for growing old is a privilege denied many.  Our bodies have faithfully carried us from Point A to Point B over the varied and intricate graphs of our life.  They have given us the ultimate equation – the ability to give and receive.

“No one longs to live more than someone growing old.” Sophocles

124 thoughts on “The Change Equation – The Body Aging

  1. I love the philosophy of celebration, because aging is a privilege not accorded to all. It’s so easy to complain about the discomforts and restrictions that come as our bodies changes, but so much more important to rejoice in getting this far (and hopefully much farther in the years to come). Thank you for this excellent post.

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    • You always bring a lift to my day!! The more we experience, the more we respect the frailty of our bodies and life itself, in whatever form it takes whether it comes with wings, fins or four legs. Thank you for life-affirming comments!

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  2. This was such an excellent topic today. I feel the aging lately because one knee (dratted old thing) has to be fixed and I’m dreading the recovery and slowing of activity. I do sometimes take my health for granted.. and it is such a gift, this life of ours! Thanks for reminding us today! xx

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    • Thank you so much for your gracious comments. I enjoy following your blog – you are fully and joyously engaged with life. I agree, it is difficult to slow down even for those moments when our bodies need some time off. And then there is a part of me that wants to stay strong and independent. Have you ever noticed it is easier to help someone that to accept help that is offered in return?

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  3. That’s it, those who grow old are lucky to have lived so long when so many others haven’t! Think of how many friends you (and I) have lost who never had the privilege of growing old.
    What a valuable post!

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    • I agree – as I was writing the post, I was thinking of my friends who did not have the privilege of old age. I keep on thinking that we must live life a “little better” in their honour – more compassion, less anger; more joy, less bitterness. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom!

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  4. Hi : celebrating aging is a good thing. I celebrate aging everyday, as this is my work. I started a blog named healthy and happy, with the intent of posting interesting information for bloggers who are interested in the aging field and topics. But I was so busy that I only managed to write two posts. I want to share with you all a very good Stanford program. Google CDSMP. We are very successful implementing this program. Will write more in future.

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  5. What a tender and thoughtful post about living, Rebecca.. I agree we should congratulate ourselves on having lived as long and as fully as we have.
    I think our body tends to age when our minds age, so that aging is a mind-set. I don’t accept that just because I’m nearly 75 I should start behaving like an old person – time enough for that. IN the mean-time, life is to be lived, with an open mind, and an acceptance of what is – even if the music sounds awful and Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst are not my cup of tea!
    To judge. or criticise or complain is what ages us I feel, and separates us from the young.. and the ones we love….
    And what lovely pics too

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    • You are so absolutely right!!! Once we start to judge or criticize, we are heading down the path of disappointment. Valerie – I really don’t think you will ever know how to act like an “old person.” Your comments and posts are filled with youthful optimism and vigor! It is like my grandfather used to say to me when I was child, “whatever you are when you are young, you just get better at it as your get older. So laugh, be nice and let’s have lots of fun today.”

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      • What a lovely grandfather you had!
        Thanks for your generous words Rebecca, you are the most supportive and encouraging person I’ve ever come across, I see it not just to me , but to others who also cross you path in the blogging world! Thank you.

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      • When someone asked me why I blog, I said that it was because I wanted to hear the voices that engage in life-affirming, meaningful dialogue. I was not disappointed. We have an amazing blogger community that confirmed what I have always known to be the truth: there are many people who want to exchange ideas and discuss important issues within a collaborative environment that fosters respect and seeks viable solutions that supports human dignity. I know that when I visit your blog, I have found a kindred spirit!!!

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  6. Your post made me think a great deal about my parents, particularly my father who’s been going through a hard time physically in the past few weeks. I have to remember that aging is something we’re all going through. It’s just hard to reconcile my image of my parents when they were young and the people I know them as today. Thank you for such a thoughtful post.

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    • And thank you for you thoughtful comments. It is especially difficult for children to see their parents lose strength, especially when they have known them when they were vibrant, young and almost indestructible. I like the quote by Carl Sandburg: “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.”

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  7. What an excellent and “well-thought-out” post–and very valuable comments. There are some things, by the Grace of God, we can change. But the changing gift of life is truly a gift, let us make the most of every minute!

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    • Well said!! We must live well to honour their lives. As Seneca said, “This body is not a home but an inn, and that only briefly.” This is our time, our place, our moment!! Celebrate…

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    • I guess that is where the saying “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak…” So let’s keep on dancing…Thank you for your comments – always appreciated!!!

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  8. ‘Aging occurs at twenty just as quickly as it does at 60.’
    Hooray!
    AnElephantcant help getting really quite irritated when told ‘You are not getting any younger’.
    News flash: Nobody else jolly well is either!

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    • I laughed out loud (LOL!!!???) when I read your comments. We are all on that timeline and we have the choice to sing, dance, boogey, or write poetry. It really is an amazing ride we are on….

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      • You are too kind! But then we need more kindness in this world. Which reminds me, I need to change my profile picture to reflect the season. Vancouver, Canada is a rain forest. And the rains have come to bless us – I am one of the grateful trees!

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  9. Wonderful sentiments, wonderfully said…! A need to ‘accept’ seems to be the order of the day; in fact, any day! It seems to run so much smoother when we do, Rebecca…!
    Thank You for a lovely read…

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  10. I was drafting my own post on having a slight setback with my running when you first posted this. When I realized I would have to rest my ankle far longer than I wanted to, I knew it was for the best. That if I kept on trying to run, I would make the injury far worse. That a short-term break now would help ensure that I could still be running in ten years. And then it dawned on me that I was able to think that far ahead. Of course, a lot can happen in ten years. But at 20, I could not attempt to think 10 months down the road, let alone 10 years. Beside, back then my body was far more resistant to abuse and my mind didn’t even consider the concept of “mortality.”

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    • Well said! When I was in my 20’s I was in a rush to live, but I didn’t think more than a few months down the road. There was plenty of time and I felt I could leap over tall buildings. In my 30’s and 40’s I thought in terms of 20 years – now I’m at decades. The timeline is short on both sides! I’m glad that you are resting your ankle…

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  11. It is so important to view the aging process with gratitude rather than disdain — I think for women in particular, society often pressures them (or so they perceive) into trying to maintain or recapture youth. But, frankly, I think some of the most attractive older women are those who have fully and healthily embraced their age, whatever that may be, gray hair, wrinkles (experience lines!) and all! Although, I could do without that slowly expanding middle-aged waistline that seems to creep no matter how much exercise is added to ths mix 🙂 ! ~ Kat

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    • That’s the right word – gratitude!!! We cannot lose respect for our bodies simply because we are using up their strength. I smile every time I go on line and there is a message that tells me that a woman has astounded her doctors because she found the secret to looking 25 when she is nearing 80. I figured that out years ago – just take off my glasses and all the wrinkle lines are blurred.

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  12. A really lovely post. I was thinking only the other day, that to say that my body has served me faithfully for over 60 years, it’s looking quite good. 😀 We have to think positive.

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  13. This is so vividly, well written.

    I found one single grey hair on my fringe & pointed it out to my son – “Look Daniel (he’s 16) – a grey hair!!!” I gasped. “I know”, he said. Just like that: he knew. Simply, knew.

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    • They always do…how is it possible? I never noticed I had grey hair until my mother pointed it out to me in a casual conversation. And when you mother tells you, you know its true.

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  14. Surely it is true that, “Aging occurs at twenty just as quickly as it does at 60.” Yet there are certain benchmarks that heighten our sensitivity to this passage of time, and make it seem like something changed . . . all of a sudden.

    Let’s make a toast to the journey – and hobble on! 😉

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  15. What a wonderful and thoughtful post. This tugs at my heart as I have two Nephews who will never grow old. They have lived their lives with Muscular Dystrophy and will never reach old age. They have both demonstrated courage and wisdom…never complaining. I should, indeed, celebrate my abilities in honor of them!

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    • Thank you for sharing your wisdom! We can learn much from your nephews who have embraced the meaning of living in the moment. Courage and resilience comes to those who experience a more difficult and demanding existence. I agree wholeheartedly – we must honour their journey by living ours with a thankful spirit. So glad that we connected!!!

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  16. I do believe a pace of aging depends on the brain activity. The more things interest someone the pace is slower…

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    • I agree – that is why I find blogging so fascinating. So much diversity and brain activity that occurs in the connections. Thank you so much for adding to the conversation.

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    • It is tough! I think it is the most difficult change that we encounter, because there is no turning back. And we can’t blame anyone or anything. We are finite creatures with minds that embrace infinity.

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  17. It seems like forever since I’ve had time for the computer. I’ve missed reading your posts and hearing from you! I really enjoyed your post and also all the responses from everyone. I very much agree – It is such an honor to be able to get to an old age! Have a wonderful week Rebecca!

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    • Well said!!! In fact, the more I live, the more I seem to recognize the beauty of the moment. There are many adventures waiting for us, and many pathways to follow…”no matter the age.” Thank you so much for joining the dialogue!

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  18. I still move like I’m 25. It’s so easy to forget that the body no longer keeps up with my mind and sometimes I have to slow it down for the body to catch up. I like what you wrote about aging. It’s not always my favorite topic. I acknowledge it I know it’s there, always looming, but I prefer to go back into denial, as if nothing has changed. Know what I mean ?

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    • I love boomer enthusiasm – it has the power to move us out of our comfy chairs and into the streets with brightly coloured running shoes. We have lived extraordinary lives during extraordinary events. I believe that our boomer generation will redefine aging. We are not afraid of more candles on our birthday cakes; rather it is our fear of growing old that keeps us ever open to new possibilities, challenges and adventures. We are the resilient generation…

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  19. Pingback: Benchmarks – A Love/Hate Relationship | Clanmother

    • Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. These are the precious moments – the greatest gift. I love the quote by George Eliot: “What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined – to strengthen each other – to be at one with each other in silent unspeakable memories.” I am so glad that we connected!!!

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  20. That’s a beautiful post – well worded!

    I sometimes get angry with people that don’t celebrate their birthday because they’re ‘getting old’. My response to them is, ‘You’re above ground. That in itself is a cause to celebrate They are so many that don’t reach this goal post!

    Love it! Thanks for sharing!

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  21. A great post, Rebecca, we are all on a time-line as you say. I tend to think of it as an escalator too. We’re all following each other aren’t we? And there’s something to celebrate at every age and stage if we look for it. God’s good like that.

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  22. What a terrific, well-written post. “Celebrate, for growing old is a privilege denied many.” I’m going to print this line out and stick it where I can review it often.
    My mind is on such things now, since my mother-in-law is on her death bed. I’m off to tweet a link of your post so others may have the privilege of reading it. Thank you.

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    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful and generous comments. They are so much appreciated. You will be in my thoughts and prayers during these last days with you mother-in-law. These are precious moments. When my father passed away last year, I was given a quote by Rabindranth Tagore: “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.” Looking forward to our ongoing dialogue!!

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  23. Nice way to put into words such a subject. To put it bluntly, we start aging as soon as we’re born 🙂 What’s important is how we do it, since it’s happening anyway.
    Nice meeting you, Rebecca. Thank you for your visit, likes and follow! 🙂 I’ll be back! 🙂

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    • I love your candid thoughts!!! You are absolutely right – we start on the timeline road on Day 1. One of my friends met with her solicitor to draw up her will. When he said “In the event of your death…” she replied, “why do you say event when it is a certainty.” He replied, “You would be amazed at how many people sitting across from me think that it is only a possibility, not a reality.” Looking forward to our ongoing dialogue. Thank you so much for stopping by – very much appreciated…

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  24. I have been coming across again and again, that our death defined the meaning of our life, and if that is the case, aging, is process for us the understand the meaning of life. Ultimately, the question is the one posed by in the Buddhism, how can we unchained our soul and let it free from physical and emotional entanglements. Until then, we are not free.

    For the singing, I love some old singers, I tried to listens to their songs from when they were young till they have become old, and the voice is so rich with the untold stories. But, who can sing like the voice of a child, or like an angel soothing our soul although she/he has been through all the pain and sorrow in life? I don’t know if I can.

    kc

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    • Thank you for adding your words of wisdom – I agree wholeheartedly. Ageing does give meaning to our lives – I feel more alive now than I did 20 years ago. One of my favouite quotes by Buddha is: “It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” Your visits always give a lift to my day…

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  25. With all the back pain I’ve been having lately (thanks to a couple of strenuous hikes on a Kauai trip), I’ve been a bit grumpy about growing old. Thank you for reminding me that I’m still here and still having fun and that’s really all that counts.

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    • I have just signed up to follow your blog and after visiting for a while, I can safely say that the last thing that you will be ever known for is being grumpy!! We are in the most exciting phase of our lives. Every day, I realize there is new possibilities that I had never even considered a few years back. I head out with my walking poles and there is no telling where I will end up. I have a feeling you are the same way!!

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  26. I live in denial most days. Try it. It helps. Well, most of the time, until you get hit between the eyes, that you can’t move as swiftly as those 25 year olds. But then, all any of us have is today, right here, right now. Carpe Diem.

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    • Now that I don’t move so swiftly, I see more clearly. What I love about ageing it that we have the potential to apply what we have gained from experience. I especially like when you said “all any of us have is today.”

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  27. Hi Rebecca, Sophocles had it right! I liked your post very much and enjoyed reading the comments and your responses. Thank you, SN

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  28. Solange wir noch Wünsche und Träume haben und noch viele Reisen in ferne Länder nicht geschrieben und bebildert sind, läuft das Altern als Nebenprodukt automatisch mit. Wer zuviel übers Aelterwerden schreibt und spricht, verpasst unter Umständen wichtige Teile sein spätes Leben. Ich nicht. Es freut mich sehr, wenn wir uns über interessante Dinge austauschen können.

    Nice to meet you. So I wish you Merry Christmas, Dear Rebeca. Ernst

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    • Ich stimme voll und ganz. Und ich mag besonders Ihre Idee des Alterns automatisch ausgeführt als Nebenprodukt. Der Alterungsprozess ist ein Beweis für das Leben gegeben und verwendet werden, um mit der Welt um uns herum zu verbinden. Wir machen uns Sorgen zu viel über die Zeit läuft aus, dass wir in der Tat, verpassen die wichtigen Teile. Ich bin so froh, dass wir im Laufe der Blogger Meilen erfüllt. Und ich freue mich auf die Abenteuer wartet auf uns im Jahr 2013. Merry Christmas – alles Gute der Saison für Sie und Ihre …

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  29. Quite right. I was thinking about this business last night as I lay in bed with a sore hip. A hip? I hadn’t even thought about my hips up till now, hips seemed to me to be something old people were troubled with. But the fact is I am aging, as are we all, and as you so rightly point out, it’s a privilege to get the opportunity. I will try to embrace that fact from now on, thank you!

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    • I know exactly what you mean. I always wondered why people complained about a backache until I couldn’t get up one day and whimpered all the way to the doctor’s office to plead for him to “make it all better.” I am grateful that I can walk even though I used to run. I am grateful that I can see, even though I have graduated to “transition glasses.” You and I are moving nicely along the timeline. And it is good to meet kindred spirits along the way. I am so glad that we connected and that you stopped by for a visit!! Your comments are very much appreciated…

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  30. “growing old is a privilege denied many”
    What a beautiful thought. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog.

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    • I am glad you did too!! I’ve already signed up to follow your blog and am looking forward to our ongoing dialogue in 2013!!! Adventures are waiting for us – I’ve already packed my bags for the journey.

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  31. I think the secret to growing older is to just keep moving. The guy with the cane has the right idea if it helps him to get out and walk. Have hobbies, learn something new, eat mindfully, and walk :). Thank you for your thoughtful and inspiring post!

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  32. Ohne Alterung gäbe es auch kein Leben, so einfach ist (könnte) es sein. Ueber die Zeit könnte man unendlich lang philosophieren.
    Zeit
    gibt, nimmt, rast,
    fliesst, vergeht
    und lässt unaufhörlich
    gegenwart zurück.
    E.B. 2012
    Viele Grüsse Ernst

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    • Ich stimme zu. Erst in der vergangenen Nacht, dachte ich zurück zu meiner Studienzeit. Ich war offen für neue Möglichkeiten und mein Geist war nicht durch die Angst vor einer unbekannten Zukunft verstrickt. Ich war dort zu lernen und leben im Moment. Wenn wir älter werden, fügen wir mehr Erfahrung und responsibilties. Angst vor der Zukunft wird mehr relevant, weil wir daran arbeiten, unsere Familien unterstützen müssen. Wir kümmern uns um diejenigen, die wir lieben. Wir vergessen, dass das Leben, wie Sie sagten, rauscht. Vielen Dank für Ihre Weisheit. Ich freue mich auf Ihren Besuch.

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