I think one of the biggest misconceptions about aging is that we have become too old to change our habits: the way we think, the way we act, etc. The world tells us this in so many ways, and we tend to believe it. I sometimes tease my 84-year old mom (who is less than five feet tall and weighs a little over 100 pounds) about how she struggles to eat every last bit of her meal when we go out to eat, claiming, “my mother always taught me to clean my plate.” I’m sure her mother didn’t serve the enormous portions that are so common in today’s restaurants, but no matter…this is how she was taught, and she’s not going to change now. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right?
Actually, you can. I know this because I have watched so many of my friends try new things in their middle age and beyond. I have friends who have taken up golf, horse-back riding, soap-making, yoga, and even friends who have launched new businesses, and all of them are over fifty. Empty-nesters move from big suburban houses to condos in the city, women who stayed home to raise their children venture out into the workforce, and still others return to college to get a degree in a whole new field. I found the nerve to start this blog, despite my deep and continuing distrust of the internet. And while my mother may not be willing to leave food on her plate, she was willing to move to a whole new city and create a new life for herself when she turned 79. Change is not just for the young.
By the time we’ve reached middle age, most of us have have lived long enough to realize that we’re much stronger and more resilient than we thought we were all those years ago. When I was young, I was so terrified of anything medical that I once almost fainted just visiting a friend in the hospital. Then I had two kids, and realized that I was actually strong enough to endure a hospital visit, even when I was the patient. Now I’m planning an elective medical procedure to get rid of a droopy eyelid…which is a quite an accomplishment for a person who once hid a dental probe while sitting in the chair, waiting for the dentist to come in. (I had a sore tooth and wanted to make sure he didn’t touch it with that sharp little thing.)
The fact is that we “old dogs” really can, and often do, learn new tricks. And it turns out that we’re usually quite good at them, too.