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Aging Gracefully in a Culture That Idolizes Youth

By July 9, 2011March 20th, 2016Healthy Living, Inspiration, Women's Issues

Lillian Golden_an example of Aging GracefullyPrelude…My mother is turning 100 on March 2nd! Can you imagine living to be 100 and still being vital and active and an inspiration to everyone who meets you? This is the piece I wrote to celebrate her on her 95th birthday and other than a few small changes, (which I plan to write about in a new piece in the near future), everything in this one still stands! Here goes…

My mother Lillian Golden is turning 95 this year in March. She is vivacious and vital; has an impeccable memory, is beautiful, gracious and an inspiration to everyone who meets her. An inspiration of what aging gracefully can look like, in a culture that is obsessed with and idolizes youth.

She still lives in her own condo and is an active and integral part of the social scene in her building. She is strong, tenacious and stubborn and has never been in the hospital overnight, other than to have her children. She was well into her thirties when she had my brother Niel and I, which in those days, was considered old.

When You Don’t Look Your Age

People are visibly shocked when they hear how old she is, thinking that at the very oldest, maybe she is 75. She has never had any plastic surgery or other work done on any part of her face or body. As far as I know she has never used any products that promise to give her age defying beauty. She is overweight and appears comfortable in her short, stocky frame. It is only in the last year, that some of the physical aches and pains of getting older have surfaced. And, in her predictable way she asks her familiar question, “Why is this happening? I don’t understand WHY.” Getting older is simply not a good enough reason for her.

Having recently read an article about aging, I told her she might be right. It might have more to do with her decreased physical activity levels and the lack of “shaking her tail feather,” than to do with aging. I would have told her to get up and “shake her booty” but she probably would have thought that had something to do with baby’s knitted footwear. Different era, different vernacular. It seems aging may not be the only reason that our bodies experience the stiffness or aches and pains that are generally associated with aging. Exercise is vital at all ages.

An Aging Philosophy

Lil Golden's 95th_Aging GracefullyHer philosophy when it comes to all matters related to health, whether physical or emotional has remained the same. “Talk yourself out of it.” Somehow, she has done just that. She is a living example of mind over matter and how a positive attitude is one of the most important contributing factors to how we age.

I used to wonder if it was merely fortunate genetics that explained her successful aging, hoping I might be the lucky recipient of those genes. That theory, however, didn’t hold up, as she is the middle child of six and has been the only one who has escaped the family history of diabetes, arthritis and various cancers. The one common trait everyone in her family did possess was stubbornness. It kept them all going through the most difficult of times, whether economic or health related.

My mother has never been particularly concerned with what she eats or drinks and has always been overweight. From pictures, it appears since her 20’s. She says she was never fat, referring to herself as having been “zaftig”, a Jewish word meaning “having a well-rounded figure or pleasingly plump.”

None of her lifestyle choices seem to have taken their toll on her well being. She is very young at heart, loves dancing, laughing and generally loves life and is happy. Although not a seeker on a spiritual path by today’s standards, she has a strong belief in the power of prayer and thanks God for everything.

Living a Well-Rounded Life

She has no worldly accumulations or possessions to speak of, unless you count the massive quantities of toilet paper, paper towels and tissue boxes she stores in her cupboard, because she doesn’t want “to run out”. A scarcity consciousness that is alive and well in the generation that grew up during the Depression and wartime. She has many drawers and cupboards filled with possible gift items “just in case” she may need one. We often joke that if any of us need an umbrella or wallet, we can count on her to have one ready for us. She laughs and then asks, “What color do you want?”

She will leave my brother Niel, my daughter Lani and I, her only immediate family, nothing of monetary value, but it is the remarkable memories that she has given us that cannot be measured in monetary terms. I know she leaves everyone else who knows her special memories as well. I personally will take rich memories over riches any day.

Maintaining Independence

LIl Golden at 98_aging gracefullyMy mother remains an independent and powerful soul. Although the Queen won’t offer congratulations on her achievement of reaching a ripe old age until she turns 100, if I was a betting person, I’d say my mother will be around to collect Queen Elizabeth’s good wishes in five years.

As a part of the boomer generation, who have unlimited options and information on how to live healthier and longer lives, I admit that I have become a bit preoccupied with the idea of growing older and losing my youth and beauty. I say that a bit tongue in cheek, because lately everyone I’ve run into who knew me back then, tells me “You were so beautiful”. I was also considered the girl who was “look but don’t touch”, my shyness being mistaken for the aloof demeanor of an ice Princess.

So now, in a culture that honors youthful beauty, I am left wondering, what will we women and men do without our youth and beauty! Aging is about going inward and defining ourselves by things that have less to do with outer beauty and youth, but about experiences lived and wisdom learned. When you look into someone’s eyes and you see their soul, the inner beauty always shines through. I believe our soul gets younger as we age. By this measurement, when you look into my mother’s stunning blue eyes, you find yourself swimming in the youthful joy of her soul.

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene

When I read this quote, it seemed it must have been written about my mother. She has been a widow since the age of 51, when my father Louis, who was born the same day same year as her, walked up a flight of stairs, had a heart attack and died on the spot. Then, one week to the day, my mother’s father also died suddenly.

She lost her husband and her father in the span of one week, kept herself together and not only survived, but prevailed. Seemingly unscathed, she moved forward, having to go to work full time for the first time in her life, as my father left nothing but debt, with no insurance policies or money. With no security, no foundation, she entered middle-age and somehow thrived, managing to become the sole provider for herself and her children.

Staying Objective About Our Parents

Although it is often challenging to look at our parents objectively, I am learning to stand back and see my mother as others see her, a seemingly unstoppable force; the indomitable spirit that she is. She is not famous, rich or successful in the ways society normally measures those things, but she has loved deeply and spreads that love out into the world. The reach of her heart is enormous and she will be remembered for her generosity; the cards and gifts she loves to give for any occasion, but more importantly, for her generosity of spirit.

As a tribute to her, I trust I can learn from her, that aging gracefully is an honor we can give to ourselves and my hope is that her life is a glowing example to others of what is really possible. I thank my mother for that gift and hope her life will inspire and encourage the generation who strives to stay forever young, to look at what is most important; to be remembered for loving and being loved. A life well lived. That, to me, is what real beauty is.

As Dr. Christiane Northrup tells all of us Goddesses, “getting older is inevitable, but aging is not”.  I’m delighted to be a member of Team Northrup, a team whose mission is to support people to live their most vital and healthy lives, regardless of age. You’re invited to take the True Health Assessment  to answer the question, “How Healthy Are You?”Aging but not getting old

Beverley Golden

Beverley Golden is a writer, storyteller, peacenik and health & vitality consultant, who loves testing unconventional ways to shift paradigms in the playing fields of health and wellness, storytelling and creativity as a path to world peace. Her passion is turning the “impossible” into the possible, using her own experiences with a lifetime of health issues, to inspire and support others to live their life to the fullest. You're invited to a Complimentary Health Consultation, starting with the True Health Assessment that offers a customized personalized snapshot of how healthy you are in the areas of lifestyle, heredity and nutrition. Contact me to get started!


  • Very touching and inspiring. Indeed, aging should be taken still as a time to grow. Happy Birthday!

  • Happy birthday to you mother and she seems like a lovely woman…surely her positive attitude to everything and she belongs to the war generation who never gives up or get too bothered by anything…:-) And we share the birthday date 😉
    Katarina Andersson recently posted…5 Social Media Tools for Social TranslatorsMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Katarina and I hope you had a wonderful birthday as well on March 2nd! My mother truly is an inspiration to all who meet her and a great example of what aging gracefully can look like. She does have that never give up attitude and she shares it so lovingly with the world. 🙂

  • Deb Nelson says:

    What a gift to live to be 100 – and retain your health, strength, and independence. Good heavens, still inspiring at age 100!!! Of course, it’s also a gift to have your mother with you at 100 and still learning lessons and growing. Beautiful tribute to your mother and love the pics of your family. Look forward to hearing about the party=>
    Deb Nelson recently posted…Challenge On: Expressing ThanksMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Deb! It is a wonderful blessing to live long and to still be vital and active, as so many people go into early decline and their quality of life suffers. I am fortunate to have this experience of having a mother for so many years and to have the opportunity to continue expanding our relationship. Glad you enjoyed the family pics and stay tuned, as I plan to write a party piece as well.

  • Hi Beverley,
    GOD bless your mother..she looks amazing! A true testament of the importance of healthy living!
    Both of my grams are in their 80s and look amazing!
    I pray I can duplicate!
    Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks so much for your kind words Sharise! She does look amazing. A true testament of what aging gracefully can and does look like. Your two grams sound like such wonderful influences for you as well. An inspiration to take care of yourself and stay healthy and happy.

  • What a beautiful tribute to your mom Beverley! Really enjoyed reading 🙂 Thank you for sharing!
    Joan M Harrington recently posted…What Are The Four Proven Services That Are In Demand and Are Easily Learned As You Blog?My Profile

  • You mother is beautiful Beverley! My #1 hero is my late grandmother-in-law, Alta was her name and I adopted her for my very own. She and her family crossed America in a covered wagon and as a young woman she became a teacher. She lived an active and vital life and still retained a lot of her beautiful red hair until she left us at 105! What a pistol she was. She loved debating politics, watching roller derby, telling off colored jokes and laughing, always laughing. From the sparkle in her eyes and the smile on her face, I believe your mom and Alta would have liked each other. 🙂
    Marquita Herald recently posted…An Often Overlooked Building Block to Emotional ResilienceMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Marquita! My mother is quite beautiful for so many reasons. I loved hearing about your late grandmother-in-law. It sounds like she was a wonderful example of aging gracefully, with vitality and energy, keeping her mind, body and spirit active. It’s such a blessing to have people like that in our lives, as it shows the spunk and spirit that is possible, regardless of age. I believe my mother and Alta would have liked each other as well. 🙂

  • Julia says:

    I loved this beautiful and loving testament to the amazing and inspirational woman your mother is. Wishing her a belated Happy 100th (!!) Birthday and many more years of good heath, love and laughter.

    • Thanks for much for your wishes Julia! Her birthday is coming up on March 2nd and I know she will get a kick out of all the wishes people are sending her from online. She is definitely an inspiring woman and she is a testament to what is possible as far as aging gracefully.

  • Dianne says:

    What a wonderful legacy you have gotten from your mother! It seems that she loved life, even when life was unkind. I think a big part of growing old gracefully is being joyful!

    • Thanks so much Dianne! Yes, she does leave quite a wonderful legacy and one I hope others see as inspiring new possibilities of what aging gracefully can look like. She is generally a very happy person and I agree with you that joy is a big contributing factor to how we age.

  • Millen says:

    Such a beautiful tribute to your amazing mother, Beverley!
    “Her philosophy when it comes to all matters related to health, whether physical or emotional has remained the same. “Talk yourself out of it.” Somehow, she has done just that. She is a living example of mind over matter and how a positive attitude is one of the most important contributing factors to how we age.” – Couldn’t agree more!

    Please pass your mom deep-felt congratulation on her Birthday on March 2nd and many blessings and joyful years to come!

    • Glad you related to my mother’s “Talk yourself out of it” philosophy, Millen. It really has gotten her through a lot of rough times. I am gathering online birthday wishes and I know she is so excited to be celebrating her 100th with family and friends!

  • Julie Gorges says:

    Love, love this! How fortunate you are to have such a wonderful mother who set a great example on how to age gracefully for you. Great tips from a beautiful woman who has lived live to the fullest and continues to do so.

    • Thanks so much Julie! So happy to hear you enjoyed this tribute to my mother. She is quite a lady indeed and seems to be able to defy what would be “expected” as we age. She has a very positive mindset and somehow that seems to have trumped all else. She certainly has lived a very full life and can’t believe she is turning 100!

  • Fabulous woman and a great inspiration. You are fortunate to have her in your life and you certainly appreciate her. How wonderful!

    • Many thanks for your kind words! Yes, I am very fortunate to still have her in my life and so are all the people she inspires every day. I am happy to hear that you see how I appreciate her, as sometimes staying objective about our parents is a challenge.

  • Denise says:

    Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Delia says:

    What an amazing woman your mom is, Beverley! I know and really believe that staying active mentally and socially has such a wonderful effect on your attitude towards aging.

    I’m happy to see that your mom is the true model of a life lived this way. 100 years old, wow, that is quite the thing! Wishing her Happy Birthday and all the best!
    Delia recently posted…Get Blog Traffic from Twitter: 3 Mistakes to AvoidMy Profile

    • I fully agree with you Delia. I believe that because my mother has remained active and social, this has played a big part in her aging gracefully. She remains true to herself, always has something to say to people, but most of all she really lives from a place of love. I appreciate your wishes for her and will send her all the cyber birthday wishes people have offered.

  • That is truly amazing and awesome that you have such a great relationship and experience… my journey… still sucks… I hate being old! lol

    • This relationship has been an ongoing process for me Kristen. I only hope I have come fully to terms with her and stay objective enough to see her as others do. I have personally not come to terms with getting old…at all. Although I am healthier now then I was when I was younger, given the choice, I would still prefer to be

  • Reba Linker says:

    Hi Beverley, Thank you so much for sharing your mom with us. She is a treasure, as you know. May she live to 120 and continue to share her love, joy and wisdom with her family, friends, and now, through you, with us. xox, Reba
    Reba Linker recently posted…Radical Self-AcceptanceMy Profile

    • Many thanks for your lovely wishes for my mother, Reba. I don’t think she can even believe she is going to be 100 so we’ll see if 120 is a possibility. Yes, she is a person who is filled with joy and love and she shares it freely with all those she meets. xoxo

  • I am so inspired by this post, thank you so much! Especially your loving words about staying objective about our parents. Blessed be.
    Sue Kearney (@MagnoliasWest) recently posted…Want more joy in your life? Try these three things…My Profile

    • Thanks so much Sue! I am happy to hear this piece inspired you. And yes, I think many of us can relate to staying objective about our parents. Often our most challenging relationships in life.

  • K. Lee Banks says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your mom! She certainly sounds and looks like a remarkable lady, and yes, definitely looks younger than her chronological age. My Mom passed away about 5 years ago at the age of 82, and she looked older than your Mom (but she also had lung cancer).
    K. Lee Banks recently posted…Leave Regrets in the Past – February 25 InspirationMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Karen! Yes, my mother is a great inspiration to everyone who meets her and she does look years younger for sure. Sorry to hear about your losing your mom, I can’t imagine how much you still feel her and miss her. Appreciate your kind words about enjoying this tribute!

  • Beautifully said and wishing many others to keep moving, dancing and living.

  • Bless her heart! May she continue to live a full life. As you know, my mom passed away shortly after Christmas and I treasure the time I was able to spend with her. The older I get, the more I appreciated her and what she went through in her life, before and after marriage and children. She was a strong woman and a terrific role model for me. Thanks for sharing her story.

    • It’s so lovely to hear that as you got older, you appreciated your mother all the more, Jackie! I can’t imagine what it is like to lose our dear mothers and in my case, my mother has always been the strong one and always been here. I am appreciating her as much as I can and feel incredibly blessed to be planning a 100th birthday party for her! She is so excited as are all the people who are coming to celebrate her!

  • Your Mom is the ultimate example of being a ‘Woman of Substance’, Beverley. I’d love to live to be a 100 if I could be as healthy and alert as her. Please do convey my warmest congratulations on March 2 and remember to post the details of her birthday party!
    Vatsala Shukla recently posted…How to give patrons happy experiences not Twilight ZoneMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for your warm wishes to my mother, Vatsala. I think all of us would want to live to be 100 if we were still healthy and vital. Although sadly, so many people in the aging population are dealing with horrible health issues that robs them of their quality of life. I love your phrase “A Woman of Substance”. That does describe my mother perfectly!

  • Lisa says:

    First of all, you mom sparkles! She just has such a spark and sense of adventure in her eyes, love her!
    When i use to work with older clients, I noticed 1 thing, the ones that were living successfully in their 80, 90s an beyond all had 1 thing in common. They exercised, and had done so most of their life. I would crack up and say, ahh I found the fountain of youth.
    I find it amazing how many different sports your mom got to do. In today’s society, it seems kids get locked into only 1 or 2 sports, and if you are not a “top” athlete you get put on the side line. I wish that more schools and society would encourage activity, not just sports and being the best. All kids need to get moving and have fun, just as your mom did.
    Thank you for sharing this awesome post, and a very Happy Birthday to your lovely and sparky mom!
    Lisa recently posted…My Western Heart- Most Change is GoodMy Profile

    • So happy you enjoyed this post, Lisa. I know you have lots of experience with seniors, so this topic is close to your heart. When my mother was young they literally “lived” in the park and with that got to try and participate in a wide variety of sports. My mom also learned to knit and crochet at the park, something she continued to excel at until just a few years ago when her hands stopped working as well as they used to. I think exercise is so critical and yet, as a child, I was the least active child of anyone. I never wanted to do sports or do any physical activity. I joke that I was great at mental calisthenics. I loved hearing how your observations of older people who exercised really spoke volumes to how limiting we are with our younger generations today. I appreciate your lovely comment and for your support my my mother. Love hearing that you can see how my mother sparkles and has a glint of adventure is her eyes. Her eyes really do speak volumes to her life energy which is still strong!

  • Beth Niebuhr says:

    What a lovely tribute, Beverley. I especially liked the quote, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Ms Greene definitely got that right.
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  • Carol Rundle says:

    Happy 100th birthday, Lillian! I hope you hear from the Queen! Beverley, what an inspiring woman your mother is and what a great story you’ve told. Thank you.
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    • Thanks so much for your wishes, Carol! Yes, I just go the congratulatory certificate from the Queen, so we’re good to go with that. My mother is very inspiring and I am happy to be able to share her with people, as she is truly an example of what aging gracefully looks like in our youth obsessed culture.

  • Joyce Hansen says:

    What a beautiful tribute piece to your Mother. You’re very lucky to have such a stubborn mother still be with you. Many times, we lose a parent unexpectedly and it’s too late to ask them all those questions you never thought to ask before. I hope you have many more stories about your mother to share with us.
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    • Thanks so much Joyce! A year or so ago when my brother was visiting from Victoria, we asked my mother a bunch of questions and were very surprised to hear “new” things from her, as we truly thought we knew everything there was to know. My father died when I was only 19 and there are so many questions I didn’t get the chance to ask him. I miss him so much even all these years later, so I agree with you that when they are here, to cherish each moment and make as many wonderful memories as we can. I am really hoping to write a new piece about my mother and am happy to hear people will enjoy reading more about her.

  • Wow! I am with them. she doesn’t look at all 100. Happy birthday Lillian! My mother has passed and I miss her every day. It’s so beautiful to hear a daughter talk about her mother in this way. Thanks for sharing.

    I love your quote. “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene I’m going to share this one. =)
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Social Media Quotes and StatsMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Sabrina! Appreciate the birthday wishes for my mother. She truly doesn’t look 100 or even close to it. I can’t imagine how much you miss your mother and I know I am not at all prepared for when my mother is no longer here! Glad you liked this quote as well, as I love it too and it really speaks to all of us and how learning to live our lives and make it through the good and the bad, is the only way to “dance through the storms” and come out better for it on the others side!

  • Teresa says:

    What a beautiful tribute to mama…enjoyed reading this Beverley.
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  • Lisa Swanson says:

    What an outstanding woman. I truly believe attitude, as well as staying active both physically & mentally play a big role in our health as we age. The other factor, which your mother seems to do so well, is in being active socially. So many elderly are isolated which, I believe, hastens the aging process.
    Lisa Swanson recently posted…How To Eat Out Without Blowing Your DietMy Profile

    • One of the things I didn’t mention in this piece, but have in another one, Lisa, is that my mother was an athlete when she was young. She played baseball, volleyball, was a speed skater and swimmer, and literally “lived” at the park. I believe this has contributed to her longevity for sure. And as far as being social, if she is “stuck” at home for a day or two, she gets antsy and needs be out and about with people. She is very social and people really love her and are amazed when she tells them her age! 100 blows people away.

  • Wowola! Big congrats to your mom on her 100th! And do I ever love, love her attitude. Especially when problems, physical or emotional, arise, I love her mantra: “Talk yourself out of it.”
    Now, that’s what I call a prescription for living!
    Susan Mary Malone recently posted…Are You Empowering Girls to be Brave?My Profile

    • Thanks so much Susan! Glad you enjoyed this inside look at my highly spirited mother! She is certainly one to share her philosophy freely with others and it does seem to have worked for her. People who have read this piece and others on her, remember and embody her mantra of “Talk Yourself Out of It.”. If we can do it, it is a wonderful prescription for living indeed.

  • Verushka says:

    Wow, Beverley, love it! Your mother, what a woman.. I always say that we boomers have a really good chance of living to 100, and we owe it to ourselves to make this second half of our lives as exciting as the first one.

    • Thanks so much Verushka! Yes, I agree…my mother is quite a woman. I hope you are right about us boomers having a good chance to live to be 100. In many ways the odds are against us for lots of reasons, and yet if we remain vital and active, the second half of our lives can definitely offer new adventures for us to experience.

  • What a beautiful post! As I was reading, I was saying “that’s Mom”, “that’s Joe’s Mom”, “that’s me” and “that’s Shandi” (my daughter).

    Our parent without knowing, teach us to “lead it ride.. just have fun, do what makes you happy”.
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    • Thanks so much Gisele, I’m always delighted to hear when people enjoy my posts! And how fabulous that you recognize your mother, Joe’s mother and now your daughter in this too. Amazing to imagine someone in the younger generations having this kind of resilience, joie de vivre and fortitude.

      Yes, our parents do teach us by example and by “osmosis” we big up more then we might imagine from them. As much as I didn’t want to be like my mother, I’m seeing the ways that I am. Thanks as always for your voice in the conversation.

  • By far your most moving, inspiring, beautifully written post. I hope you have read it to your mom. Mother-daughter relationships are often complex and you have been able to stand aside and see & describe your mom as the person she is.

    Yes, every baby boomer should read this. Every daughter who struggles with “I got the wrong mother” issues should read this.

    Soon you will be celebrating her 100th year. I know you have a party planned & I somehow want to see a big splash about her on social media.

    • Thanks so much Roslyn! Yes, my mother has a copy of this post and when I first wrote it, people got to read it on the Huffington Post as well. My mother is quite a wonderful inspiration to so many people who meet her and yes, she shows us all what is possible. I think the times she grew up in were much more favourable for longevity though, if I am honest. Too much technology now, adulterated food and decreased socializing are just a few the differences.

      My relationship with my mother has been challenging and yet when I stand back and see her objectively, I see the incredible strength and determination she possesses. I hope more people get to read this again and I am working on a new piece about her for her 100th, which for sure I will share. Yes, I’m planning to make it as big a splash as I can! You know me…I love sharing good things with people! xo

  • Sabrina says:

    Wow! I hope I look and feel as good as Lillian when I’m in my 90s!

  • At last! Someone who understands! Thanks for posting!