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Stress-Free Aging

My guess is that you're probably reading this in the bathroom, so stop squinting into the mirror, looking for wrinkles or examining the ones you've already found -- drop the insecurity for a second and listen up.

First, what's the deal with this fake, tabloid-obsessed, Hollywood myth about eternal youth, anyway? Remember discos? Trend. Here for a few years, gone forever.

Anyone can see how this whole "aging with grace" movement has already affected women (of all ages, even teens, which is confounding beyond belief). Now it's not even a stretch to see men jumping on the age reversal bandwagon, stressed out, and filling their heads with a lot of hot air and nonsense.

Who arrived and determined that "a certain age" was the one that makes a person "old?" Who would we give that kind of power to, anyway? Listen: One thing all men know by the age of 50, for example, is that how you think will directly influence how you act.

So, if you're really convinced you're a pot-bellied, balding oldster, guess how people (men and women) are going to treat you? You might as well wear a sign around your neck: "Over the hill."

Also, think for a minute about what you say -- and how you say it. Self-deprecating humor is one thing, but when you really start to put yourself down, even in a "I just meant to be funny" way, your listeners are going to start believing what they hear.

It's also a fact that that what you say affects how you feel. How you relate to others, even in this quacky era of "youth and beauty," comes across more strongly than a thousand hours in the gym. When you genuinely believe you're old or "out of it," you are. Case closed.

So, before that happens, make sure you've got your priorities straight: The truth is, you're going to get older, and look older, which seems to be a universal theme of constant wonder. But what you do with that information and the resulting transformation of yourself as you age -- which can be both enlightening and exciting -- will make all the difference.

Here's another little tidbit of information to chew on: Because 78.2 million baby boomers turned 60 in 2006, that means we -- the baby boomers, that is -- take up most of the population. Those Gen-X'ers and Y'ers would be smart to start thinking about a burgeoning, upcoming career: one that involves working for us.

At no other time in documented history has the population of those between the ages of 42 and 60 been more robust than today. Because we've grown up in a relatively "comfortable" economic and societal time, we're used to, and have learned to expect, a secure and relaxed lifestyle. We're used to certain levels of what we like to think of as "sophistication."

Yet somehow, it's just too weird and too hard to imagine the gang hanging out at the old folks' home in our 80s. Why? We'll very likely still be active, because we've grown up in "the gym" era.We're used to working out and doing the kinds of physical things our fathers would never have considered at the same ages.

And what's with that word, "retirement," anyway? I don't know about you, but anything that has the word "tired" in it isn't the way I want to perceive myself. Our fathers retired. WE jump-start new careers: We go back to college and either finish our degree or get another one.

Remember that list of what you thought you wanted when you were in your 20s? Take a look at it again and enjoy the laugh. Now, the list of what we know we don't want is just as long, or even longer. It's actually pretty comforting to be in a place where we know who we are, what we really stand for, and what our values and belief systems are. Our new "list" of what we really want is tight, concise, and well-thought-out. Admit it: that just feels good.

"Aging gracefully" is a unique concept, and every man is going to do it differently. Just be certain that whatever you do works best for you. Now, we have more choices than ever, and better yet, we're still the "leaders of "the pack."

Bio: Pete Grant is a freelance writer living in Norfolk, VA, with Clara, his wife, their three kids, and Clarence, their basset hound.
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