If self-criticism were a disease, it would likely dwarf other epidemics.
The Fetzer Institute
A few years ago, in this column, I quoted the Jefferson Airplane when they sang “life is change.” I’ve also written here about wabi sabi, appreciating the beauty of impermanence.
Embracing the inevitable changes of our continued living can be a hard row to hoe. One of the cruelest forms of internalized ageism is how harsh we can be on ourselves as we get older.
An important part of aging consciously — of aging with intention — is self-compassion. People with greater levels of self-compassion have less anxiety and depression, a greater ability to forgive, and are better able to cope with difficult life events.
When are you hard on yourself facing the challenges of aging? What triggers your self-critic? Do you think about self-compassion as you age? Do you ever talk about it?
There are several key ways of developing self-compassion, some of which are:
Recognize honestly your thoughts and feelings about aging
Respond to your honest self-assessment with kindness
Understand that you are not the only one who is fearful about aging
Try to cultivate awareness every day
Compassion for oneself allows compassion for others, which allows for empathy and for the awareness that we are all interconnected. Although isolation is burgeoning among older people, aging is a collective event. Our Oak Park-Forest Park-River Forest area has a growing consciousness of the aging part of our communities — the OP-RF Townships’ Memory Café, Celebrating Seniors Week, the Wabi Sabi Film Festival, Kindness Creators Intergenerational Preschool, River Forest Public Library coffees, Mohr Community Center, Dementia Friendly efforts, Concordia Center for Gerontology, and 60+ yoga at the Yoga Center are some examples.
Slowly, as the conscious aging ocean tide increases, all the ships rise.
The West Cook YMCA recently unveiled a new Healthy Aging Pilot Program specially designed to support the needs, interests, and gifts of people age 62 and up. Participants in the program will receive a complimentary membership to the West Cook YMCA, personalized wellness coaching, fitness programming, health literacy events, and opportunities for enrichment and social engagement. Programming will take place at the Y, located at Marion and Randolph in Oak Park, and transportation will be provided for any off-site activities. The program is free to the public thanks to funding from the Russell and Josephine Kott Memorial Charitable Trust and the Healthy Communities Foundation. Groups of 10 participants will start monthly, with the next cohort launching on March 9. Subsequent groups of 10 will launch on the second Mondays of April, May and June.
And finally, Concordia University Chicago’s Center for Gerontology is hosting a listening session on March 10. People over age 60 are invited to provide input on what they think an applied center for gerontology should or could be. If you are interested in attending, please contact Dr. Lydia Manning at Lydia.Manning@cuchicago.edu or 708-208-3218.