Three Steps to Aging Gracefully and Elegantly
Different ages have held different periods of significance for us here in our American culture. The age of 5, 6, or 7 usually means graduation from kindergarten, First Communion, or first time you could walk to grandma’s house by yourself. The years 15/16 are even better: Quinceañera, a driver’s license, and maybe a job to start saving for a car. When you are 18 or 19, life changes in many ways: more schooling, full-time work, the power to vote! the military, marriage—but for many, it is legalized drinking!
I know 30 was a big year for me and my friends. For some reason, it was a major turning point. We were over-the-hill adults!! Now many of us have long passed the top of that hill and are descending the slopes of time, reminiscing far more years into the past than we are planning into the future. I love my life, and I am fascinated by the fact that I have actually reached my 70th year. In addition, I love every year that pushed and pulled me here.
I want to discuss the far reaches of adulthood—becoming a senior—which is different for each person. For some, it’s 55, 65, 70, or 85. The real point is that the title of SENIOR is bestowed upon us, isn’t it? Different people have different notions of senior. When I turned 55, I rushed out to Denny’s to eat a meal because Denny’s has a discount for seniors at 55. I don’t usually eat at Denny’s, but this was my privilege now. In a culture where privileges are rare, you take them where and when you get them.
As a Spiritualist, we all learned that the basis of our religion, philosophy, and scientific understanding of natural law is the continuity of life. Corollary to that is the active role of Spirit in our lives. That understanding of Spirit so pervades our every day that we know that Spirit is there in our every thought and action if we are aware and attentive to the wondrous world in which we live. As a result, let’s focus on the three steps we baby boomers need to take to make
the most of our senior years relative to the rest of our brothers and sisters: the step forward, the step aside, and the step back.
Many of us are still going strong at 70—our minds are sharp, our bodies agile, and we have energy–Maybe not as much as we had at 50, but we manage well. We have attitude and knowledge and good insight. We also have achieved a certain authority or status—and may be thinking of running for an office. We finally are in a position to be able to consider a leadership position. But look around. Often, we are surrounded by younger individuals who only lack the confidence to take on leadership. That’s where we come in. We’ve been there and have seen the best and the worst of life. We can lead, show the way, and help younger individuals gain the confidence they need to take on leadership roles. You can almost hear Spirit saying, “Go on, say yes, run for office, then ask those other people to work with you in running this fundraiser—or district—or PTO.” At your age, at any age, you don’t need to do it all. You will also use all you have learned to pass it along. This is the best possible role for you in bringing along new leadership—and what do you have to lose? With all these wonderful people to help you, you have everything to gain. Sometimes those people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s just need that gentle nudge and a mentor or sponsor to take on a leadership role. Age does have its purpose—but the main role is to pass it on, meaning pass the torch to someone new.
That first step, Step Forward, requires much discernment and spiritual guidance. Consider the situation, the potential candidates, the need, and the consequences. My point is that if there are younger individuals who are qualified and available to help but not ready for the responsibilities of an office, it makes sense for an older person to run for office in order to bring along younger people in succession.
Finally, your turn has come. Elections are being held; there are now openings in the positions you have considered, and you want to have a chance to lead!! But wait! Think a minute. As part of the post-War Baby Boom, there were hundreds of thousands of reasons why you couldn’t or wouldn’t get the position you wanted. Think of all those 40- and 50-year-olds who will never have a chance at leadership because of us at the top edge of that Baby Boom. They might just as well give up any hope of ever serving in any kind of meaningful, responsible, decision-making position. I suggest that the most elegant and meaningful step we can take is to step aside and allow these younger but mature people who have more energy and enthusiasm to take the positions. We can add our wisdom, our intellect, and our insights and enjoy our retirement while contributing to society, but allow those with more energy to actually do the work. Now that sounds good to me. Do you hear Spirit saying, “Down, Ego, down. I give you opportunities to use your best self, and your physical self may not be your best self. Give all you can and enjoy life. You deserve it.”
This is not to say you may not express your two cents, vote, or be active. But if I were a 45-year-old surrounded by 60- and 70-year-old people all running for the same position, well—let me suggest we use discernment and ask for guidance from Spirit on who best can speak for the future. I consider the second step to grow old gracefully and elegantly is to step aside when the situation warrants it and when Spirit leads us in that direction. But there is one more step that we can take, and that is to step back.
There is no doubt the world is changing around us. Just watch a group of 5-year-olds with their I-Pads while their grandparents are chatting about their C-Paps. Our lives are
different—and it is difficult to keep up. Let’s admit it. We don’t understand all the new technology that is out there, nor do many want to. It’s just too complicated and not always necessary. When decisions are being made with regard to changes, we need to be careful how we approach them.
I remember in the ‘80s at a high school faculty meeting, we were discussing how to spend some money: buy computer equipment or purchase textbooks. I spoke up and said we needed textbooks—at least we knew who would be using them and how. I’m embarrassed to share that now, but it’s the truth. In that instance, I should have stepped back and kept quiet. When we are involved in discussions we don’t fully comprehend, we need to step back. We don’t always know the trends—and trends are not always fads. These new technologies are here to stay. I must remember that I can only see my side of the issue. When making decisions, if someone asks me, I will share my opinion. But otherwise, I step back and keep quiet. This is not my century I’m voting for. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Let’s listen to Spirit who will help us tune into Natural Law.
Our Ego has very limited boundaries. We need to see beyond those boundaries and allow change to happen. I honor the pioneers of Modern Spiritualism who broke many molds and stepped on many eggshells as they also stepped forward, stepped aside, and stepped back to allow changes to occur. Those times during the 19th century must have been quite difficult, but they had trust in Spirit and trust in one another that every day was a walk into the future. We understand the continuity of life. We understand the active engagement of Spirit in our daily lives and trust it—or do we?
As we grow older, our understanding and reliance on Spirit should be that much stronger. Stepping forward, stepping aside, and stepping back, as the three steps of growing older
gracefully and elegantly, should characterize us as we move about our families, societies, and organizations that we love, honor, and respect. We know Spirit is there and will take care of us as Spirit always has. For that reason, I will take these three steps in discernment: step forward, the step aside, and the step back, trusting in Spirit.
Rev. Dr. Norma J. Turner, NST
Spiritualist Living Center
Sun City and Mesa, AZ