The Gift: The Power of Self-Entertainment





The Gift: The Power of Self-Entertainment

by

L.T. Force, Ph.D., Gerontologist

I once had a conversation with a next-door neighbor - on Cape Cod. He was an elderly European man - a man who had witnessed and lived in a variety of cultures across his lifetime. We had a mutual neighbor who lived across the road. I will give him the name of: 'Joe'. It was obvious 'Joe' had a problem with the use of alcohol. You could detect this problem when observing the actions, behavior and affect of 'Joe'. One day, my next door neighbor said: “You know what the problem is with 'Joe'?” I said: “No, what’s the problem with 'Joe'?” He said the problem with 'Joe' is: “he doesn’t know how to entertain himself’. Those words stuck with me: ”the problem with 'Joe'- is he doesn’t know how to entertain himself”. I think that is the problem for many....that is - how best to engage and entertain oneself.

Across the lifespan - things change. Activities and interests that once received our attention - we find ourselves no longer engaging in. Based upon the major theories in the study of aging and gerontology - and what I tell my students (as they begin my course in the: ‘Psychology of Aging’) is: “Aging is not a process of frailty and decline. Aging is a process of adapting. Disease is a process of frailty and decline and can occur at any time along the lifespan. For example, the farmer at 40 years of age becomes the gardener at age 70 and then turns his attention to managing a flower pot at the age of 90. There are a multitude of examples showing how personal interests and hobbies - adapt across the lifespan. Aging is about adapting."

Why is this progression important to understand? It is important to understand because it is connected to the growth, presence and development of: “purpose and meaning”. Want to stay young? Embrace the importance of: “staying connected on all levels”, I.e. psychologically, emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually....and the list goes on. Want to grow old quickly.....disconnect from these interests and activities - and you will experience an: "accelerated - aging process" that is overshadowed by social disconnecting and social isolation (the greatest foe of all).

Many of us across our lifespan, at different times and for different reasons, have searched out the presence of experts and specialists. For some, it is the conversation and exchange with: Medical Practitioners, or Nutritionists, or Physical Trainers, or Life Coaches, or Psychiatric Practitioners, or Psychics, or Yoga Masters - all with training, experience and expertise in various domains. With goodwill and intent - we have been recipients of advice and recommendations - some we have integrated into our lives and followed - and some we have not. Interestingly though, the one group of: “Knowledge-Brokers” that is absent - is the group or discipline that understands and highlights that: “Yes, taking healthy anti-aging supplements is important and yes, using anti-aging creams and products will keep your skin and body hydrated, flexible and smooth, however, if you don’t take your: “daily dose of purpose and meaning” you will experience an accelerated aging process that you can’t even imagine....first on the inside and then on the outside.... In fact, engaging with: ‘purpose and meaning’ - is just as important as being connected to a: ‘heart rate and brain rhythm’ - it keeps you vibrant...it keeps you alive. Connecting with: ‘purpose and meaning’ is the key to opening the door for: "productive ways to entertain oneself’" and the foundation for that doorway is found in one area: “Attitude!” You light-up your “Attitude - you light-up your world! And hear me clearly - “Attitude” is not dictated by an age....or a number....it is dictated by: “purpose and meaning!”.

A chronological age is an artificial measure of who you are - this we know for a fact. You may ask - in this writing, why so much emphasis on minimizing the importance of an age. First, because we know that it is true and second, in full transparency - the reason it is so pronounced here today for me - the minimizing of age and the maximizing of: “Attitude” is - because today is my Birthday! And a typical response in hearing that - would be: “Congratulations, Happy Birthday - that’s great! How old are you today?” And my answer is: “Thank -you for your warm wishes - and today - it feels great to be: 48!, 108!, 28!, 88!,18! and 68! - all in the same year….depending upon the day!” And why would I respond like that? Because it’s not about an age - a number - it’s about an “Attitude!” And “Attitude” guides you in engaging in “purposeful and meaningful ways” to entertain yourself - regardless of your: "stage of age"!

Oh, and more one thing! 'Joe'? You ask about 'Joe'? 'Joe', the neighbor who had wedded himself to a ritual with alcohol abuse - as a way to entertain himself....'Joe' died. Now the question is: “How will you give yourself a gift on this day.... a way for you to self-entertain yourself.... in a: "purposeful and meaningful way"....a moment in time when you decide - regardless of your age....to begin again....a day to reconnect with: "purpose and meaning"....a day to celebrate!"

Happy Birthday to all of us!

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