What Older Ladies Can Teach Us

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Over the last year, I've interviewed older ladies across the country about living, aging, and what it means to “live a good life.”

 
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What I've learned from their stories changed how I view living at 29.

 
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Aging, really, is about our relationship with change.

 
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Some insects have evolved to undergo a dramatic transformation as they get older. Butterflies have no choice but to go through a complete metamorphosis to enter new stages of life.

 
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Tadpoles go from happily swimming in a stream to leaving everything behind to become land-dwelling frogs. Can you imagine?

 
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Our stages of life as humans are a bit less dramatic, but we still have them. The latter part of our lives, for instance, can bring retirement or kids moving out of the house.

 
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I spoke to women in their 50s and 60s who felt like they were entering a new chapter of life.

 
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Sara told me that at 63 she feels like she’s grown into a lion.

 
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At 60, Sheila quit her corporate job in Chicago and moved to Oklahoma. She thinks of herself as a flower at the start of spring.

 
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But for Betty, turning 56 felt unsettling. She had regrets and felt stuck.

 
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Dorothy, at 64, also felt uncertain and scared.

 

From their stories, I learned that it’s not about what we do once we turn 50.

 
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It’s about what we’ve built in our 20s, 30s, and 40s to get there.

 
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The women who were flourishing were the ones who had maintained connection to themselves, their spouse, and their communities during the manic decades in the middle of life.

 
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In the midst of the chaos of raising children and working, they were the ones who committed to date nights with their spouse. They invested in their church group or book club. They made time to be alone.

 
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By the time their kids moved out, the healthier ones didn't dread the emptiness. They saw it as a chance to dive deeper into their marriage and have more time for friends.

 
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They were looking forward to retirement because they’d get to expand into new possibilities, instead of feeling like they lost their place in the world once they weren’t working full time.

 
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We age more gracefully when we harvest the fruits of community, partnership, and happiness that we’ve planted in our younger years.

 
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Aging is about going through the metamorphoses while holding onto what matters.