In our society, aging is an ugly word, synonymous with: inferior, done with, not useful, ugly, etc....As life expectancy is growing, we need to ask ourselves: how can we put it to profitable use as individuals and as society?
Successful aging can be manifested as:
· low or disease free living
· great mental clarity
· active engagement with life
In the East Indian culture, when your hair turns white and you become grandparents, this is the time to detach yourself from the world and go into the "forest", isolation, concentrating on spiritual matters. By abandoning all attachments, one is now free to focus on union with your higher self (Spiritual aging). When we are young, we are so obsessed with making money; there is no time for deeper thoughts or contemplation.
However, the kids grow and up move away, colleagues disappear, loved ones pass away. We get surpassed by the younger generation and our sense of power and ego takes a hit.
In the West, we fight to overcome these losses, while in the East we embrace these changes.
Ask yourself: Who am I? If not Mom, or the /Vice-President, who is this wrinkled face in the mirror? Is there a true self that transcends this? According to the spiritual model, we need to confront such questions.
The elder Hindu sets off on a contemplative quest for introspection. The Native American remains within the bosom of the tribe, serving as a spiritual guide. Such a person, detached yet compassionate, is a blessing to the community. Despite such differences, these cultures share a vision of aging spiritually.
The West, with all of its violence, alienation and injustice, desperately needs such a model of elders. We are afraid of the older generation as a drain on our resources. However, these white heads could be very valuable to a world where everything has gone hay-wire.
Growing older does not mean that we automatically become wise. This demands a process of spiritual growth. There will always be people telling us how to fight off old age, but amongst the losses of old age there are precious lessons and graces. To find these is to age gracefully.