The word “graceful” means “characterized by beauty of form, manner, movement, or speech.” Those who age gracefully share an attitude and behaviors that are admirable, pleasing, and elegant to themselves and others. Here are three traits they have in common:
- A spirit of adventure and discovery that is reflected in how they approach transitions; rather than resist change, becoming paralyzed and unable to move ahead, or complaining and whining about why they have to adapt themselves again, they embrace the opportunity to learn something new, to find a new side of themselves, or to develop new skills. My friend Nancy, for instance, is a lifelong learner and a good example of an adventuresome sojourner; when she and her husband moved to a suburb of Indianapolis from Nashville a few years ago, she began locating new social and special interest groups to join in order to discover the many interesting museums, restaurants, community centers and resources of her new “home town”. As a result, she’s as busy and happily engaged now as she was previously; the move has been a good one because she loves having adventures, making new friends, and celebrating the pleasures that a new area offers.
- A love of traveling and lifelong curiosity that yields knowledge and insights gained through personal experiences and encounters with people and places that can bring history alive. My good friend, Becky, is an inveterate traveler who satisfied a desire to visit the Holy Land a few years ago and came home with a host of stories, photographs and experiences that she promptly converted to slide shows for the Bible Study groups in her home church. A beloved teacher, she spoke with passion and understanding about the religious and historically significant places she had seen with her own eyes that gave new life to ancient stories. No surprise that she’s been a member of an informal travel club of four friends since her twenties and has never met a city, hotel, or vacation spot she doesn’t love! “So many places to go, and so little time” could be her mantra.
- A lively, energetic presence that is ageless and is expressed in fashionable clothing, being well read, voicing opinions about the issues of the day, and having an open-minded enjoyment of diversity with friends of all ages. I can always count on my friends Jeannie and Bob to be good company; we talk about current books, new restaurants, spirituality, death and dying, and advancements in medicine and science. It’s never boring to be with them and there’s never a lack of topics to discuss over a good meal. Even mundane, everyday things that happen to them are somehow transformed with their humor, spirituality and appreciation for the journey of living life fully.
You may notice something about these characteristics in my friends: they possess the same traits that are commonly associated with young people. What’s up with that? It turns out that growing older gracefully is a state of mind – it has very little to do with someone’s actual age. It has everything to do with loving life – “there is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love…” (from Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder).