I find it odd that we celebrate the milestones of a child’s life, but after X-number of years no one acknowledges the growth that continues to happen as long as we are alive. We “ooh” and “aah” when a baby says its first word or takes its first step. We marvel over how our pre-teen niece or nephew has grown since we saw them a year ago. But where is the applause when a woman gets her first pair of bifocal glasses? Where is the appreciation of a first gray hair? I don’t understand why it is that at some unspecified age, society decides to ignore—and in fact show great disdain for—continued signs of growth.
Who said that after some arbitrary point, changes should no longer be recognized in a positive way? It’s a fact that human development occurs throughout the lifespan. So why not value development at both ends of the spectrum? We need rites of passage to mark momentous changes all life long.
In my study on spirituality and aging, participants told me about the changes they had noticed in their appearance, physical function, and memory, and they shared how they felt about those changes. One of the women I interviewed described sagging breasts and graying hair but declared that she felt more attractive and engaged in her 60s than she did earlier in life. She said that at a younger age, “I couldn’t enjoy life because I worried so much” and went on to say, “I think it’s wonderful to be older because you have wisdom…I love being this age.” Another woman related something she had heard about facing life’s changes and challenges: “honor the entirety of the journey—all of it.” Life is precious whether it’s a cooing baby or a grandmother with meaningful experience. It’s time to stop waiting for the world to recognize our value. It’s time we honored and celebrated the entirety of our journey.