[700]-Companions-6-at-the-beachHave you ever heard someone say “I can’t wait to grow old!”? Aging isn’t something we eagerly anticipate. Society puts so much emphasis on staying young that we tend to have a negative perspective of growing old: wrinkles, aches, pains, declining physical and mental health, Social Security and economic struggles, health insurance woes and overall worries about the future. These concerns cause many young people to dread growing old. But for all the negative, let’s not forget the positive side to aging.

I assembled a small panel of empty nesters/grandparents in my life (ranging from 50 to 73 years of age) to weigh in on this issue. I wanted to know their thoughts about the positive aspects of aging. I enjoyed their responses so much that I’ve arranged them into four main categories and included them here—in their own words.

Life with grandchildren

Pam: What can I say?  Being a grandparent is amazing! After successfully raising three amazing children and seeing them start their own adult lives, including becoming parents, it is nice to sit back and support their amazing journey as parents and adults.  Can’t wait to see how the rest of this life unfolds and the memories we will make with our children and grandchildren!

Marcy: Watching my boys with their children brings me so much joy. We have seven grandchildren, and every one of them is a gift, a blessing, a treasure and a JOY! The stories you hear about how fun it is to spoil them and then send them home—all true! I love their innocence, their questions, watching them learn, and the thoughts and ideas they have.

Elaine: The greatest blessing is being able to see what wonderful adults your children have become and to be able to spend time visiting your children and grandchildren. It is a joy to be able to hug, kiss, and be around your precious grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Marcy: Our three grandsons (along with their parents) live in the basement of our home, and every day when they see me, they shout, “Gran-eeeee!” and run to me with their arms wide open, like they haven’t seen me for months. I truly feel loved.

Life with no children at home

Cheri: No more report cards, homework, parent/teacher conferences, and transporting back and forth to school!  I don’t have to stop whatever I’m doing and be at the school at 3 p.m. every day to pick up my children. CAUTION—without children at home, I forget when school is in session and have to be careful about driving through school zones.

Pam: When I was in my 20s, 30s and early 40s, it was all about raising well-adjusted, happy children, which is amazing, but all consuming.  The days were spent either working or getting errands done before the kids came home from school and then we were off to a million sports and activities.  If it was summer or school vacation, it was about entertaining the masses! Now, the house can be a little quiet sometimes, but it makes you appreciate the noise and craziness when the grandkids are over, because you know, firsthand, how fast these times go, and you cherish every little thing a little bit more.

Elaine: I miss having a house full of children, but I smile sometimes when I watch parents with their children because I don’t have to deal with some of the difficulties: quarreling or crying children, toilet training, monitoring children’s homework or musical instrument lessons or practice, multiple sporting events each week, or reminding children to go back to bed 20 times before they stay in bed and go to sleep. It is quiet and peaceful at my house. And if it gets too quiet, I can choose whatever music I want to play or whatever DVDs or TV program I want to listen to or watch.

Janeal: At this phase in life, it is nice to not be responsible to care for anyone but your spouse.

Cheri: You can cook and eat what you like! And I can go out to eat at any restaurant I choose, not just kid-friendly restaurants like McDonalds (though it is fun to spoil grandkids with a trip to eat and play at their favorite places).

Elaine: You now have empty bedrooms in your home available to turn into guest rooms, a den or a hobby room. You can have the bathroom (bathrooms) all to yourself. And you don’t have to clean as many bathrooms. Supposedly your house will stay cleaner now, but if it doesn’t, you can no longer blame the children.

Life with more freedom: time, travel and finances

Cheri: You have more time to work on hobbies.

Elaine: Yes, more time to spend reading books or doing hobbies than you were able to do in the past. More time to help friends and family members and to serve your community and help out at your church. When someone needs help, I can help out immediately—even if it requires traveling to their location.

Janeal: It is a lot easier to go places and do things without having to pack a lot of things. If you are retired you can get up and go at any time. Life is cheaper and simpler. It is more like a break, a time to relax and do what you want to do.

Cheri: It is so much easier to go on vacation–only pack for two, only two airline tickets to purchase, more hotel space and lots of car space for the trip. You can go on vacation while school is in session and enjoy venues with fewer tourists (because they’re all in school!).

Elaine: You can go on vacation when, where, and as long as you want. Vacations no longer have to be geared around what the “family” would like to do, what the children want to do.  They can be geared totally around what you want to do.

Cheri: You make more money than when you were raising young children, and expenses are less.

Some of life’s lessons learned

Janeal: I don’t know that we are any wiser, but it doesn’t matter anymore.

Marcy: I’ve learned that I am part of a much grander plan. I have a spiritual, comforting connection with my family and God.

Elaine: I’ve learned from past experiences, learned that all people are different. We need to accept them and love them as they are. Unconditional love is of the greatest value to us and to everyone around us.

Cheri: Now I’m finally getting things in perspective. Good values, morals and life lessons are so much more important to teach than the ABCs (yes, ABCs are important, too).  But it’s the bigger picture that is really vital.  I regret not doing better with my kids as they grew—but now I can focus on teaching those things to my grandkids.

Elaine: I have more quiet time to sit and think of all the many blessings that I have been given over my lifetime and that I also still enjoy.  I am grateful for my blessings. They far outnumber the many challenges I have had.

 

What do you think of this panel’s responses? Do you agree? Would you add any additional positives to their list? Please keep the conversation going and let’s remind people to stop focusing on the negative and start focusing on the positive aspects of aging.