The Good News About Getting Older

The Good News About Getting Older

posted in: Essays | 23
This article is by Jonathan Young, founding curator of the Joseph Campbell Archives.

There are some things that get better as we age.

On our best days, we have a kind of grace. We are works-in-progress and even in later life new qualities surface.

Some aspects are coming along faster than others. Other features come and go.

In general, certain emerging attitudes seem to unlock the rewards of getting older.

1.  We can enjoy life.

  • We are often playful and like to laugh.
  • We are starting to move beyond the need to look cool. This leads to all kinds of fun, at unexpected moments.

Even our idiosyncrasies can be quite entertaining. When we hit a bump, we are sometimes bemused at the ridiculousness of life.

We also enjoy recalling the oddities we have witnessed. Some of them have been amazing. We’ve had enough disenchantment for a lifetime. We’re willing to be enchanted again.

The Good News About Getting Older with Obi-Wan Kenobi at

2.  We make the most of what we have.

  • We are finally gaining some perspective and even a little wisdom.
  • We have a bit more inner stability.
  • We have the guidance of memory that often routes us around trouble.
  • We are coming to terms with our limits, and mainly celebrate what we can do.

At long last, we seem to have a sense of who we are. We like ourselves more than we expected. We are getting better at trusting our own tastes and preferences. We appreciate the freedom to indulge in our interests, new and old.

A grateful heart lets us take pleasure where we find it.

3.  We appreciate people.

Friends, acquaintances, and even strangers have unexpected qualities. Their faces are surprising in ways we didn’t notice before.

Also, we have decided that most people are good enough as they are. There’s no need to change anyone.

We realize it wouldn’t do much good to try, anyway.

  • We appreciate those who have been kind to us.
  • We have received a great deal of affection over the years, and such gifts last.
  • We have the friendship and love of a lifetime with us always, even from the people who aren’t around anymore.
  • We are thankful to have had good company on the journey.

The Good News About Getting Older with Obi-Wan Kenobi at

4.  We accept our flaws.

We don’t have to be perfect. On most days, we relish the diversity of our personalities. We can be flexible or stubborn, clueless or profound, depending on the moment. We tend to honor the delicate parts of ourselves.

A life with nothing to be sorry about would be rather uneventful. We are even starting to appreciate our past disasters. Old humiliations have become essential parts of a fine story.

We occasionally even feel a tender fondness for the ragged edges of our lives.

The Good News About Getting Older with Obi-Wan Kenobi at

5.  We are at home in the world.

  • We enjoy our surroundings and often discover new secrets about familiar places.

Watching the explorations of small children and animals can delight us. The piece of cake we allow ourselves is especially delicious now that we don’t indulge often. The scent of a flower or gentle touch of a breeze seems more sensually rich than before.

  • Sometimes, we glance around our home spaces to relish how our belongings reflect our personalities.

Perhaps we got more efficient in the pleasure department. Maybe, having had our share of difficulties, we just appreciate things more.

The Good News About Getting Older with Obi-Wan Kenobi at

6.  We have less to prove.

  • We are learning to avoid comparing ourselves with others—or even with our former selves. It is a relief when we can begin to overcome feelings of competition.
  • We can sometimes even deal with envy as a bad mood, not to be trusted. By focusing on our best personal qualities, and favorite current interests, we can find something fulfilling in almost every day.
  • We might have more contributions to make, but don’t feel quite as driven to do something of great importance.

Most of the time, we are able to work and play for its own sake, not to look good in the eyes of others. Now that the need to show off has eased a bit, finding opportunities to use our talents is a manageable task.

7.  We have strong priorities.

We are getting better at tending to our deeper yearnings. Now that we’re not in charge of fixing everything, we are free to devote our energies to neglected passions. It may be creative expression, reading, gardening, hobbies, or working on causes.

Certain projects virtually call us. It might surprise friends that we are so energized by these activities, but we feel no need to explain ourselves.

On most days, we use time in more immediate and present ways than ever before.

The Good News About Getting Older with Obi-Wan Kenobi at

8.  We accept our moods.

  • We know that life is rich with nuances of emotion.
  • We like being happy, but indulging in a little grumpiness has its rewards, too.
  • We can usually let sadness come and go when it wants, without making a big deal about it.

Life has its ups and downs. No point getting frustrated when it won’t help.

  • We avoid fretting about things, if at all possible.
  • We are often able to be philosophical about life’s ordinary disappointments and tribulations.

When we can accept our feelings, a natural buoyancy usually restores tranquility soon enough.

9.  We take time to reflect.

  • We are able to ponder the inner life more than in the past. Allowing quiet to enter us seems to change the flow of time and make it larger.
  • We find ways to open to the mysteries within.

For some it is meditating, for others it is knitting, still others find it during a daily walk. It is simply being receptive to something beyond our ordinary thoughts.

Partly, it is using the gifts of experience and long memory. Reflecting on fine moments in the journey reminds us of the riches of our lives.

Which point do you most relate to? What about Obi-Wan as a role model for getting older?

Joseph Campbell and Jonathan Young in 1985Psychologist and storyteller Jonathan Young served as the founding curator of the Joseph Campbell Archives. You can find out more about Dr. Young’s work at The Center for Story and Symbol.
“The Good News About Getting Older” summarizes the material in his seminar Invoking the Sage—Choosing to Age Well. A reading list for Invoking The Sage can be found here.

Images from the Wookieepedia.

23 Responses

  1. Patricia
    | Reply

    Oh my, Debra, this is a very real post. I can relate to everything in here. I think I especially like the part about how much better cake tastes because we don’t indulge as much. That is so true.

    Every word hits home with me and I thank you for sharing and reminding me that I am fine, just the way I am.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • @DebraEve

      Patricia, we can thank Jonathan for this! I find the insights of mythologists and storytellers into aging so much deeper and more meaningful than most of what’s out there.

  2. Florence Fois
    | Reply

    Debra, all of these ring true, but I resonated mostly with 7,8 and 9 … I also think that having more to look back on that look forward to gives us a more concrete sense of time. We don’t have forever to wax and wain … our time is spent in reality rather than fantasy and we see the end with less fear.

    Thanks … and who wouldn’t love Obi-Wan as a role model?

    • @DebraEve

      What a great insight, Florence: “… our time is spent in reality rather than fantasy and we see the end with less fear.” Interestingly, I enjoy reading fantasy more these days, perhaps because my life is more grounded. But some of us could live to 100, giving us almost as much time to look forward. I find the thought both terrifying and intriguing. (Seriously, I just got a smart phone. What will they look like in 40 years?)

  3. Lindsay
    | Reply

    Ob-Wan is great role model not just for who he is (he respects himself tremendously), but for how he is treated by others. He is an Elder.
    At the Chautauqua Institution in New York I have met elders in their seventies, eighties and beyond who are blooming in all ten ways.

    • @DebraEve

      Lindsay, this started out as a search for Star Wars images that fit the post, since Jonathan is a close colleague of Joseph Campbell, and without Campbell, there’d be no Star Wars. But the more I found, but more I realized what a great archetype Obi-Wan is, on so many levels. I’ll have to explore him further. How fantastic you’ve been to Chautauqua! That’s a dream of mine.

  4. Madeleine Kolb
    | Reply

    Debra, I can relate to each of these advantages of aging to some extent. I find that I really do appreciate other people more than I used to and that I’m freer to express those feelings. I also take time to reflect–generally when I’m walking on a beautiful trail near my home. On a clear day, I can see Lake Washington, the Cascade Mountains, and an array of birds. I treasure that time.

    • @DebraEve

      I’m so envious of where you live, Madeleine. Although I appreciate the perks of my extremely urban environment, I yearn more for nature these days, and a slower life. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Dave Doolin

      I can’t really say I’m all there yet.

      I can say that I’m learning to appreciate people better, and more importantly (I think) to express gratitude for all I do have and for all people I have in my life.

      Looking cool once in a while, that’s still fun. Once in a while. =)

    • @DebraEve

      Hey Dave, if anyone can pull off looking cool, it’s you. And Obi-Wan always looked cool. So does Morgan Freeman. So perhaps it just becomes a state of being we really don’t have to think about anymore :). Great to hear from you.

  5. Karen McFarland
    | Reply

    Amen! All the above! What a wonderful post Debra. Thank you. 🙂

    • @DebraEve

      You’re welcome, Karen!

  6. Jennette Marie Powell
    | Reply

    #1 pretty much sums it up–less to worry about (for the most part), and more acceptance. I read an article on last week that said happiness really does increase with age. This is a great expansion of what that article said.

    Obi-wan is the mentor character, highlighted in Episode 4 by an older man with much life experience, so definitely the perfect role model!

    • @DebraEve

      Thanks, Jennette. I beginning to think Obi-Wan might be the perfect role model for aging — he made a few mistakes in his youth, but learned from them and went on to guide the next generation and find enlightenment. Great character!

  7. Lee J Tyler
    | Reply

    Dear Debra,
    This is one for the ages. One beautiful and truth filled sentiment after another. A bouquet of wisdom; I find the same blossoms of insight in my garden as well. I may not be able to bend down to gaze at them closely (you know, the knees ;p), but that just allows me better perspective to appreciate the entire garden.
    Every word hit home for me. Thank you for this. I am saving it in my Evernote file (a spot of honor), so I can read it often.
    My best to you,

    • @DebraEve

      Thanks for such a poetic description, Lee! I love Jonathan’s mythological approach to aging and plan to feature more of his work.

  8. Lauren Smith
    | Reply

    I love Star Wars :-). Thanks for sharing these great tips on growing older – well! I especially like the point on having good friendships. This is important as we leave the work force and enter into retirement. My mom is a part of the Red Hat society, and that has kept her young. You might enjoy more advice on growing older in a positive way in a book by Johann Christoph Arnold entitled, Rich in Years. The author shares stories of real people who have overcome loneliness, dementia, disability and the fear of death that has inspired me to do the same.

    • @DebraEve

      Thanks, Lauren, and also for the book recommendation. I just checked out Johann’s site and it’s quite inspirational. I did an article on the Red Hat Society a few months ago!

    • Lauren Smith

      You’re welcome, Debra :-). I will tell my mom about your article and this blog. Thanks!

  9. Chris Edgar
    | Reply

    Yes, that sense of being at home in the world that you describe has definitely become more present for me as the years have gone on. It now amazes me how deeply I used to be concerned about my appearance as I walked through the world — these days, traversing the fairly sedate part of Northern California I live in wearing my leather jacket and motorcycle boots is a lot less anxiety-provoking, as hoodlum-like as it may cause me to look in the eyes of some. 🙂

    • @DebraEve

      That’s funny, Chris. There’s a psychologist in my complex who walks around in a leather jacket, motorcycle boots, AND rides a Harley. Here in L.A., that’s just how professionals and white-collar workers blow off steam. There’s even a Harley fund-raising ride down Rodeo Drive and most of the participants are lawyers:). But you’re right, I find I’m less concerned about the trappings of appearance too.

  10. Patricia Sands
    | Reply

    “On most days, we use time in more immediate and present ways than ever before.” I relate to that part of #7, but all of the points in this post ring true. As much as youth is a wonderful period in this adventure that is life, those of us who are fortunate to reach old age have a great opportunity to use all of the experiences of the past to make these later years very special.

    • Debra Eve | @DebraEve

      Thanks, Patricia. I love this piece by Jonathan Young. So glad you related too!

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