Creative Aging: It Ain't Over Until It's Over!!

by Teddie-Joy Remhild

Now that I have actually attained the amazing age of 80 years, how does that feel to me and to the others in my world?  For me, it is a breathtaking thought. How did it arrive so quickly?  Do I feel decrepit, demented, or displaced?  How am I perceived by those I encounter in my world? Do they view me as any of the above, or do they view me as "amazing" or the exception to the negative image of "old woman"?
These are only a few of the questions which occasionally cross my mind as I proceed into old age, and I do not "go quietly into that dark night."
Why do we think of aging as being similar to a crime?  We especially criminalize females who dare to age, turn gray or display a wrinkle.  I wonder why aging has become a dreaded prospect, and yet we hear that more and more people are celebrating 100th birthdays.
I want to be one of the celebrators and to proclaim that I am still of as much value as any young girl and possibly even more so.  I have more knowledge, experience, hopefully wisdom and creative thoughts now than at previous times in my younger life.  I am smarter about my relationships and about how I choose them.  I keep friendships and cherish them, and that's a new realization of aging.  As I come to the awareness of how valuable and limited my time is, I not only cherish it, I expend it selectively and with great care and consideration.  I also carefully select those with whom I will spend that treasured time.
I consciously care about my mental and physical health and I work hard at disciplining and educating myself on ways to enhance both aspects of my humanity.
As I create my personal version of aging, I must, at the same time, confront and protest the demeaning and disrespectful attitudes which permeate our media and our own perceptions.  While I was a student at the USC School of Gerontology, one of the facts which stuck with me is that, if you hate the idea of aging, that will ultimately become self-fulfilling in your own aging process.
I celebrated my 80th birthday and plan to celebrate the gift of every birthday as they unfold and my own unique version of creative aging.