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AGING WITH WISDOM AND GRACE
By Dr. Maureen McCarthy

Retirement is a natural part of life cycle, just as aging is a normal aspect of living.

Even the newborn infant ages from one day to the next. The real goal of every human being should be to grow in age, wisdom and grace. Grace is the response to the daily blessings we experience, some which may be small, others great. To live with an awareness of God's grace is to possess a profound sense of awe, gratitude, a deep respect for all human beings and an appreciation of the ecology which, in fact, was created by God for all people to enjoy.

Jack Benny joked that life began at age 39. Some say life begins when you retire because you experience a new sense of freedom; others insist you age exactly as you live. We have all met people who are old at age 20 and seventy years olds, like former President Carter, who still builds Houses for the poor. The French say, "You're as old as you look!" Americans believe. "You're as old as you feel!" At age 86, Pablo Picasso said, "It takes a long time to become young!"

Therefore, aging is more than health and genetics. It is closely linked with attitude, activity, resourcefulness, prayerfulness and connectedness to others and the strengthening of intergenerational ties. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, commonly known as Mother Teresa, repeatedly stressed the need for love, even as she advocated that we should do small things with great love.

Some of the hallmarks of aging with wisdom and grace include the following:
  • Do learn to see yourself as unique; no one exactly like you ever lived before. Identify some characteristics that you feel makes you unique; work on cultivating being loveable.
  • Do regard retirement and aging as new opportunity to define yourself and toshare blessings.
  • Do focus on reviving old interests and friends; seek new pleasures and the satisfaction that comes from volunteering.
  • Be practical and realistic about life: learn about the normal processes of aging.
  • Maintain a zestful and enthusiastic involvement in life. It is the best antidote to aging.
  • Take time to be in prayer, silence and solitude each day with the Lord. He has promised "My peace I leave you, my peace I give to you."
Finally, the writer has been a long term caregiver, a licensed counselor, a licensed psychologist, university professor and at age 67, has just returned from 3 years and 6 months as a volunteer in Africa. She hopes to return to the missions and age with wisdom and grace.
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