Redefine aging at Westlake Community Services
Everyday we age. This excites us when we are young. We cross milestones such as double digits, Sweet 16 and legal age with enthusiasm.
Once we hit 30, the enthusiasm begins to wane. Black balloons make their appearance. By the time we hit 40 or 50 we are pronounced "over the hill," as if this is a bad thing.
But is it really so bad? After all, if you think about it, wouldn't you rather run down a hill than up it? And how about a rollercoaster ride? Isn't the drop the most thrilling part? Framing it this way makes "over the hill" is a cause for celebration.
Yet we don't approach aging with celebration. We focus much more on the decline rather than the blossoming. One dictionary definition I found called aging "a condition" with symptoms and causes. Ugh. No wonder the artwork created by local elementary school children for our Westlake Community Center patrons (in honor of National Senior Day) included heartfelt messages to "get well soon."
Certainly, aging is associated with some decline, but this does not paint the whole picture. In fact, this uni-focus on the negative is why it is perfectly acceptable in our society to label products as "anti-aging." Think about it. Are we really anti-aging? Maybe we are just anti-declining?
The other side of this coin is that after 50, most adults actually report feeling happier. Better yet, this increased happiness continues on an upward trajectory through the years. In general, it is the middle-aged years that are usually the most stressful, so "going over the hill" is actually a relief.
With less stress, older adults generally have less conflict with others and are not as quick to anger. We tend to focus more on what we like, and spend more time doing it. Moreover, we share an increased experience of gratitude, compassion and engagement with others.
It would seem this is the key as to why, despite the negative part of aging, there is a U-shaped curve of happiness. The journey of happiness doesn't have to decline! In fact, it does just the opposite. This is great news for all of us.
So if you are in the Fifty-Plus age range and are loking for ways to engage and spend more time doing what you like, check out your local community and senior centers. I represent the Westlake Community Services department, where we offer hundreds of unique programs and classes each year. Check out www.cityofwestlake.org/community-services. You can also feel free to stop by Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Take a guided tour and see firsthand what is available.
We have podcasts, TED Talk discussions and classes ... lots of classes. In the months ahead you can learn about Mayan Civilizations, Crimes of the Century and the life of Billy Joel. You can come for movies, cards games, tai chi, yoga, line dance, chair volleyball and more. Take an art class and enjoy homemade soup at our cafe, which is open Tuesday through Friday. You can also just come with a book, have a seat and enjoy a cup of coffee. If you are a veteran, join our monthly Coffee with a Vet group.
There are many pathways to engage here. In fact, I have heard our members describe the center as a "college campus" for older adults. There are so many ways to engage and have fun, minus the high tuition fees, grades and exams. Sound fun, doesn't it? It is. Call 440-899-3544 for more information. The Westlake Community Services Center is located at 28975 Hilliard Blvd., next to the Recreation Center.
I am the Director of the Community Services Department for the City of Westlake. I am also a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.