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Journey of Aging: Learning and Unlearning

Journey of Aging: Learning and Unlearning

Greetings one and all…

It is a lovely, nippy morning in the Mile High City. Our dogs apprise me of the temperature every morning by the speed at which they conduct their “business” in the backyard. Today, our furry friends were focused and fast. So, time to put on another sweater! No need to check the thermometer or tune into the local weather forecast. I trust my canine mentors—inspiring instructors and reliable sources of information. My ideal companions since I love to learn!

I have always enjoyed learning new things. My parents were instrumental in fanning the flames of my intellectual curiosity. My dad was a college professor and my mom was an intuitive teacher. Both shared their love of knowledge, the written word, and books with me. I enjoyed nothing more than a trip to the library with my mom. We spent hours in the public library roaming through the aisles, flipping through books, and making our selections for the week. I can still recall the smell of the library—books! A wonderful memory indeed.

As a lifelong student, I have spent the past 60 years learning about life. Although I savor the academic experience, the opportunity to learn extends far beyond the pages of books. I have gleaned the most profound insights from my lived experiences. The good times, the bad times, and the transitions in between provided the opportunities to learn about life and about myself. Although I have invested 60 years into my scholarly endeavors, there is still more to learn. And, as a very wise woman shared with me yesterday, there are things I will need to unlearn as I age.

By chance yesterday, I met a lovely woman at a leadership meeting. We were chatting about the journey of aging—the challenges as well as the opportunities. As an octogenarian and a recognized expert in the field of aging, she reflected that the hardest part about aging was having to unlearn some things in life. We must unlearn our adherence to autonomy, independence, and control if we are to age well.

In our society where self reliance is highly valued, it is disturbing for most people to envision becoming reliant on personal and professional caregivers. However, the reality is that the majority of us will require (and perhaps desire) caring companions as we age. Strategies, attitudes, and expectations that served us well as adolescences and young adults may actually inhibit our ability to embrace the journey of aging. Therefore, we must let go of—unlearn—prior, restrictive tenets in order to experience a more expansive elderhood.

Consequently, we need to recognize when it’s time to turn the page, to unlearn our previous approach to life, and to lean into the never-ending adventure of learning about life. Interesting, eh? Learning how to age well begins with unlearning antiquated life lessons. Perhaps unlearning frees up some space in the mind and the heart to consider a new way of being in the world. Chew on that idea for a while my friends and let me know what you think! What must you unlearn in order to age well?

I look forward to the ongoing conversation. If you have specific questions or concerns related to your caregiving experience, I would love to hear from you. Until the next posting, I wish you and yours countless blessings…jane  

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