This subject of growing old gracefully has been on my mind a lot lately. Not only have I been contemplating how to do it, I’ve found myself really examining what it looks like if you and I actually end up being able to claim we did, in fact, get it done.
Better still, would my friends, my family, and my coworkers say I’m already a person who is growing old gracefully?
Men Don’t Talk Much About It
When I decided to write a post on the whole subject of growing old gracefully, I suddenly found it quite difficult to pour all of us into the same bucket for examination.
First, women view the topic of aging a little differently than men do. And second? Well, it’s really rather hard to get men to talk about it at all.
While women have an easy way of hashing out the angst of aging, men would much rather joke about a few of the pertinent facts over coffee and donuts, leaving the heavy-duty analysis of aging to us female types.
So I Asked
After a few frustrating attempts at online research, I decided to take the bull by the horns and just ask around.
My plan was never to compile a scientific study, but merely to garner some definitive insight into growing old gracefully from a man’s perspective. Sounds simple enough, right?
So, for about a week, I asked the same question over and over.
I asked it of men I know and men I’d never met before. I was related to some, but others were merely strangers who had nothing better to do than respond to a goofy blonde who wonders aloud whether they would mind answering a question.
To a head, each one looked intelligent. They were college students, millennials and men Over Fifty. I felt as though my non-academic focus group had shaped up rather nicely. However, when asked the question, I got mostly the same answer, across the board.
Me: How do men get old gracefully?
A Better Question
Okay, seriously. My ol’ hide has grown thick enough to take plenty of rejection, but something was just off. Why was I getting a blank stare and a dull groan every single time? Finally, it hit me. My problem wasn’t me, and it wasn’t really the question I was asking.
The poor guys just didn’t understand it.
If I had just thought to reframe my words, if I had approached these sweet bacon-lovers by swapping out gracefully with respectably, well, that would have changed everything.
Graceful is a term most men associate with dancing or even a runningback who flows down the field, weaving effortlessy to the touchdown. When I asked the men what they thought growing old gracefully looked like, their minds were visualizing something more like an old man in football pads!
But respectably? Now, we’re communicating.
Whew! Now that we’re on the same page, here is what growing old respectably looks like from the eyes of millennials and boomers alike. (Once I finally got them to tell me.)
- Work on your appearance. Try a new haircut. Get the latest, greatest razor. Look nice. wear trendy eyeglasses and stylish jeans. Keep working out.
- Make room for millennials. This was a hard answer to hear from the millennials in my survey group. It took some effort not to get offended by the unfeeling tone of their statements; however, a few deeper questions revealed some tender thoughts. Guys in the 20-30 age range are dealing with a lot. Getting a job is hard work, and dating is not easy either. It’s common for them to feel stuck in a holding pattern, as if they’re waiting their turn, holding a number, standing in line for their chance at real adulthood. Older guys are out front, while the younger ones feel a little like young children jumping up, waving their arms, trying to get some attention.
- Stay married. Men, you are probably well-aware of this one, but if you need a little more motivation to protect yourself from the influence of a woman outside your marriage, this is it. You’ll have a harder time growing old respectably when you leave your son’s mom.
- Have hobbies. Although there are 280,000 farms and ranches in the great state of Texas, not many men get an opportunity to work outdoors for a living. But all the men I talked to mentioned that having a hands-on hobby shows something valuable about manhood. Being able to cook, paint, use a power saw or hit a long drive are all things that men revere as hobbies that lend respectability.
- Give praise. Men need to know when they’re getting it right, and they would often rather hear a word of praise from their peers than from their mamas. Growing old gracefully allows men to lift up other men.
The Bottom Line
Growing old gracefully may be a term that resonates more loudly with women, but men have a definition for the phrase that seems to be all their own.
Men look forward to leaving a legacy of respect. Good traits, honed across the test of time, passed down, father to son, man to man, are seen by men as passing the baton in a lifelong relay.
Looks pretty graceful to me.
Encouraging a life filled with intentional adventure as we model the best ways to grow old,
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