Confession: Even though the work I do is all about bolstering women and helping them celebrate their worth through life story writing, at 68 years old I sometimes fear the best is behind me.
From time to time, I catch myself buying into some stereotypes of aging, questioning whether I’m “too old” for certain physical activities or blaming my forgetfulness on my age.
Raise your hand if you’re guilty of the same.
Well, we could all take a lesson from nonagenarian Cynthia Riggs, who I heard the other day telling part of her amazing life story on a The Moth podcast. Cynthia studied geology in college; worked in public relations; had a long career in boating; earned an MFA in creative writing in her late sixties; runs a bed-and-breakfast on Martha’s Vineyard; and has written 20 books . . . and counting.
Oh, and she fell in love and got married in her eighties after having sworn off men forever.
Cynthia is a woman for whom age isn’t a limitation. In her nineties now, she still sets—and meets—big goals. And she sounds so happy.
Listening to Cynthia made me think about so many things. For one, I’m grateful she shared her story. As a life story writer by passion and profession, I believe deeply in the power of women documenting and sharing their earned wisdom.
In addition, Cynthia’s story reminded me of some compelling information I’d come across recently about the connection between attitudes toward aging and longevity.
Researchers from Yale and Miami universities studied 660 individuals aged 50 and older and shared their result in an article called, “Longevity Increased by Positive Self-Perceptions of Aging.”
Here’s the upshot:
Their research found that older individuals with more positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging.
Do you know what this means?
Bad attitudes about aging can actually decrease our life expectancy!
This information didn’t surprise me exactly—it follows logic—but it did inspire me to keep thinking positively about my next act and how to make it my best.
One way to do that, I learned from Cynthia, is to keep setting big goals for myself. For example, I’ve never backpacked in the wilderness. And when my sweetheart suggested we plan a trip, my first thought was “I’m too old.” But I caught myself in mid sentence. Instead, I said “yes”, hired a personal trainer to help me prepare, and now I’m enjoying the benefits of a body that’s stronger than it was 5 years ago.
Another way I stay positive about aging is by leaning into my wisdom. I got to this point of my life by climbing a ladder of lessons learned. I haven’t reached the top of that ladder—I’m still learning and always will be—but I have gathered a lot of wisdom on the way up.
These days I pour that wisdom into my life story writing, and those stories serve as reminders of who I really am, how far I’ve come and inspire me as I look at my life ahead. Have I earned my extra 7.5 years? I sure hope so. I need them for all the goals I’m setting!
What goals are you setting for yourself as you move into your next chapter? How are you earning your 7.5 years?
Joanna Klein MSW is an international speaker, writer and educator who knows the power of owning your personal story. At the age of 65, she was divorced three times, had no income stream, and was beginning to believe the best years were behind her. Instead of spiraling downward, she found a way to transform her life. And positivity followed: she started her own business, met the love of her life, and began to genuinely accept and believe in herself for the first time. She now shares her proven techniques and processes, helping women celebrate their stories of joy, strength, courage and resilience and leave a legacy of wisdom for future generations. You can get a copy of her FREE Write Your Story Starter Kit HERE and join her FREE Facebook group HERE
To learn more about Joanna, visit www.fromjourneytolegacy.com.