On aging with grace

Earlier this year, history.com cited the “Seven Most Contentious U.S. Presidential Elections.” The current election had not, at that point, made the list.

I think it is safe to say that during this past presidential race, very little grace was shown at a time when our country could have used courtesy and goodwill from our candidates.

As two senior presidential candidates (ages 69 and 70) were campaigning to be the leader of the United States, each had the opportunity to be a notable role model for our younger citizens. They had the opportunity to demonstrate aging with grace.

By aging with grace, I don’t mean being comfortable with your wrinkles, gray hair or a few extra pounds. I mean living and acting in a state of awareness and seeing conversations, events and actions from multiple points of view.

There is a secret to aging with grace. Defined in a secular (nonreligious) manner, the art of grace has its roots in what many of us know as wisdom.

Remember the wise old owl of nursery rhyme fame?

A wise old owl lived in an oak

The more he saw the less he spoke

The less he spoke the more he heard

Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

Wisdom entails possessing knowledge and experience—and at the same time having the good judgment to know when and how to apply them.

We equate age with wisdom because, in the process of getting older, we generally acquire more knowledge as we experience new situations. Remember how simple life was when we were young? Things were right or wrong and there were no shades of gray. Nuances eluded us.

I remember one of the first times I really understood shades of gray as it pertained to current events. It was the Vietnam War and I was about 12. I was able to understand the differing opinions about the United States’ participation in the conflict.

At that time, it began to dawn on me that there may be more things in life that aren’t black and white. And that maybe my beliefs could change if I knew more about a particular issue.

So why does wisdom bring grace?

When we are wise, we are aware of life’s ambiguities and we understand that our own priorities and values may not be perfect. Wisdom is what guided the old owl to speak less, so that he could seek to understand the points of view of others.

When we are wise, we expand our ability to express compassion and to be tolerant, understanding and forgiving.

After this contentious election period, seniors, because of their diverse knowledge and longer life experience, are uniquely qualified to apply their wisdom to encourage others to seek to understand and regenerate spirits.

If we harness the wisdom of our seniors, who represent a huge demographic in this country, we can help to build bridges and inspire good deeds and actions.

That would be aging with grace.

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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