MANY people would say it is a matter of the mind, as in mind over matter, or as in a matter of psychologising oneself. In a sense, or at least partially, what they say is correct. But there’s a lot more that is involved in aging gracefully.
The more precise answer to how we can age gracefully, I think, is to take care of our soul, of our spiritual life, of our relationship with God and others. Aging gracefully is a matter of being in love with the love of God who is the only source of true love.
It is this love that makes us young always. It is this love that enables us to age gracefully. It is this love that can defy the ravages of time, that can make us enter into eternity, into the forever. No wrinkles, no physical, emotional or mental deterioration can overcome the rejuvenating power of this love. It is this love that makes everything new.
Remember Christ saying: “The Spirit gives life. The flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you–they are full of the Spirit and life.” (Jn 6,63) It would be good if we often meditate on these words and be guided by them, for in them do we have the secret to aging gracefully.
It’s amazing that many people give more attention to their bodily and worldly condition than to their spiritual status. The former can only have a transitory or at best an instrumental character. The latter is what can make us young and vibrant always, which is what aging gracefully is all about.
No amount of cosmetics and make-overs can constitute the ideal of aging gracefully. No, not even the Zumbas and other physical exercises, or any medical and surgical intervention. At best, they can give a temporary appearance of youthfulness. But sooner or later, these cannot prevent the deterioration and loss of vitality. They can never replace what the spirit can do for us.
I remember St. John Paul in his dying days. Physically, he was already quite a wreck. He was bent, his speech was slurred, tremors were in his hands, saliva dripped uncontrollably from his lips. But his mind was alert and keen till his last breath which he made with such calmness and serenity.
That is the classic example of aging and dying gracefully, a reflection of how Christ himself met his death that led to his resurrection! This kind of aging and dying welcomes old age and death itself without fear and hesitation, convinced of where real life and eternal youthfulness lie.
When we take care of our spiritual life, hitching it with the Spirit of God himself, then we can enjoy all the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. Imagine a person who, in his old age, possesses true wisdom, knowledge, etc. It’s difficult to imagine him other than being youthful, vibrant, confident, cheerful, full of love, kindness, patience, meekness, etc.
One psalm can somehow describe the secret to aging gracefully and keeping the spirit youthful. “I (a young person) am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept your (God’s) commandments.” (119,100)