On Aging

Everyday, at least one of my patients mentions aging.  In their 20’s, they feel they have it all and feel sorry for people in their 30’s. In their 30’s, they talk about their fear of not accomplishing all of their life’s goals. In their 40’s, they talk about their disappointments and failures. In their 50’s, they start to feel more stable, whole, satisfied, and grounded. In their 60’s, they start to focus on physical aches and pains but feel much more emotionally secure with greater self-esteem. In their 70’s and above, medical issues become more pronounced and their focus in more on bodily woes than caring what other people think about them.

People under 50 typically experience time by looking from birth to where they now. Those over 50 tend to think in terms of “How many years do I have left?”

“We’ve seemed to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.”(Indiana Jones in The Crystal Skull)

If only we could start our with this later-in-life self-esteem.  As we age, we learn that most things we worry about don’t happen, and that people really don’t care about what we do or say as much as we think they do. We learn that our lives are about US and our loved ones.  We decide to care more about what would give us joy than what would impress others. That’s why there are all those “Red Hat” ladies’ lunches. They’ve learned to have fun by expressing their freedom to wear whimsical hats when they gather for a meal in friendship.

As we age, we slow down and smell the roses. I remember when I was younger I wondered why older people didn’t drive faster. After all, they didn’t have much time left, so shouldn’t they be rushing around to “get there”? It seems silly to me now. Older people have learned that all we have is NOW and that there is no rush because one moment isn’t necessarily better than another.

Try an experiment for one day. Walk, talk, drive, eat, and move slowly. You’ll find you’ve lost NO TIME but have gained a sense of having lived that day in a more aware and mindful way. 


Kathleen Cairns, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in West Hartford, Connecticut. She works with adults, adolescents, and couples. You may call her at 860-236-5555 to make an appointment. She is the author of “The Psychotherapy Workbook.”  You may email her at and she will try to answer as many of your questions as possible.

Life goes on… and every day matters…

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