To evaluate something, we need the whole picture. When we can see only one piece, we cannot accurately assess its value. Aging is one of many examples.
Consider parenting. You get no training and you cannot quit. Lives are in your hands. There will be sickness, conflict, and the fear of losing what you care about most. Parents face years of expense, never knowing what will come next.
The problem with that description is not that it is inaccurate. It is incomplete and slanted. The parenting picture also includes the soft grasp of a trusting hand and the immeasurable satisfaction of seeing your child meet a challenge. Along with toughest arguments, there are the deepest hugs and the best private jokes. It is a big and messy, but wonderful, picture.
To really see a picture, you have to look through a big frame, one that includes everything.
Now consider how we talk about aging. We say that aging is a burden and a curse. It is a long, slow, decline. We look for ways to avoid it, reverse it and cover it up. Aging is scary. Older people are less capable and less valuable than younger people, right?
Our picture of aging is too small
Our current picture of aging is absolutely incomplete and often inaccurate. As we age, we acquire wisdom, knowledge, skills, and deep relationships. With age, we have the ability to do so much more than we could without life experience.
Even when we say we want to be young again, notice that we usually say that we want to young again knowing everything we know now. No one wants to know less or be less secure, and it takes time and experience to reach our full potential.
Getting older is not a curse. It is living and growing. The experience is not uniform. It cannot be reduced to a few negative statements. Aging can mean all kinds of things and these days that picture is expanding, as we live longer and healthier lives.
Aging needs a huge frame to encompass all that it is. It is time to reframe aging to get the whole picture.