I’ve been running a campaign asking men how they feel about aging. Is aging harder for gay men? Or, is that just a myth? Based on the number of men talking about their struggles it is at least partly true. But, there are a lot of guys who’ve been talking about how well they’re embracing getting older.
Attitude is the main difference between them. While both the positive, and negative, perspectives on aging are diverse the men who feel they can benefit from the process are faring much better.
The Pressure to Stay Young Looking
Robi Ludwig in “Your Best Age is Now”, addresses the myths that surround aging. She makes a great case continuing to develop, and thrive, no matter how old we are. There are many parallels between how women, and gay men, perceive getting older. We are being culturally pressured to stay young-looking for as long as possible.
With so much pressure to stay young many many are struggling. Many of us want to be boys who don’t grow up. This “Peter Pan complex” is the source of many challenges in gay culture. But, very few of us want to deal with the issue. If we are to redefine what is means to get older as gay men we need to start with growing up.
Our Missing Generation
We lost huge population of men who would be in their fifties to seventies during the early days of AIDS. This missing generation has literally robbed our community of its elders.
Perhaps if there were more of us we would have a better chance of changing how we think about older gay men. Our greatest hope for change are the generation X men who are quickly approaching fifty. They may exert enough force to redefine the way we look at aging.
Shifting Our Perspective
What would embracing getting older in a healthy way look like? It will start with shifting your perspective. Along with the challenges that aging inevitably brings, there are positive shifts. We understand ourselves, and the world better. We’re more stable and comfortable in our own skin. We start to embrace a deeper set of values focusing less on the superficial things.
One of the most important shifts to make as we age is focusing more on quality of life, on healthy body, and mind. By the time we’re approaching forty our personal care regime needs to be focused on staying strong and healthy more than on looking youthful, which will come as a side benefit anyway.
Mid life is a blessing that many of miss out on as we endlessly chase youth. For most, it is the most successful period in life both personally, and professionally. It is a time to reorient ourselves to life, take stock, and prepare for what’s next. As we live longer, and work longer this will become critical. We don’t relate to retirement the way our parents did. We’ll either stay in our careers much longer, or have a plan to live the dreams we couldn’t when we were younger. I don’t intend to spend what may well be the last half of my life feeling like life is over because someone else thinks I should. I hope you don’t either.