Wellbeing and Ageing

| January 21, 2014

As we age it helps to take time out once in a while, look back over our life and map out the key events. Gerry O’Sullivan invites us to review our life in order to achieve balance and wellbeing.

Wellbeing at any age consists of more than just physical health, though of course that is important. For true wellbeing we need to address the health of our mental, emotional, social, creative and spiritual aspects.

When we are young we can get away with burning the candles at both ends, eating badly, drinking too much, working too hard and not getting enough rest and recuperation. But as we age our system does not have the resources to cope with such out of balance lifestyles. The cracks start showing, and if we don’t do something to redress the imbalance we can be heading to an early death or unhappy and unhealthy old age.

I remember railing to my therapist when I first started to have to wear glasses to read. He suggested it was a simple evolutionary progression. When we are young we need to be focused, set on the target, whether it be an animal we are hunting or, in our culture more likely the degree, the sale, the next promotion, the home.

As we move into the phase of the elder we need to broaden our focus, see the bigger picture and pass on our wisdom to the next generations. In American Indian societies the elders were called upon to take the long-term view of any decision, what will be the implication of this decision on the tribe in seven generations? So we don’t need such keen eyesight.

We can also start to feel the stirrings of dissatisfaction, even depression, as if our lives have run away from us. We are too busy doing what we “should”, not what we “want” or are passionate about. In fact we can be so busy living lives that others set for us we no longer know who we are.

What I have found helpful for myself and now with my clients is to approach ageing consciously, face on, not trying to deny it and pretend we can stay young forever, but also not allowing ourselves to get depressed by old age and death’s inevitability.

And like all journeys it helps to get really clear on where we are starting from, so do a life review and work out who you have become through this life of yours. Take time, look back over your life, map out the key events, the lessons learnt and decisions made, skills and talents acquired.  Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in his book From Age-ing to Sage-ing, A Profound New Vision of Growing Older, referred to this process as life harvesting. What a beautiful concept, that we can now reap the fruits of our long and complex lives!

From this point it becomes easier to work out what your values are, what you want to do, how you can contribute and be of service, and how to bring your life into balance and wellbeing.

I first started doing this sort of process just after my fiftieth birthday, and it really helped me get some clarity on who I was and what I wanted to do. Now almost fifteen years later I still find it helpful to take time out to consciously review my life and take stock where it is going. And it has changed; I have changed and the whole world we live in has changed.

Have you had the chance to take time out to review your life? What might you discover? It may well change how you choose to live the rest of your life and joyfully embrace your death.

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi: From Age-ing to Sage-ing, A Profound New Vision of Growing Older, Warner Books, USA, 1995

Gerry O'Sullivan

Gerry O’Sullivan is a Somatic Psychotherapist in private practice in Crows Nest, Sydney, a career she came to after over 30 years in the IT Industry in technical, sales and management roles. She is seeing clients across a range of ages and with a range of issues such as anxiety, depression and life crises as well as those wanting personal development. Her passion has now turned to the ageing process and she runs a program called “Way of Wisdom” which helps people to find purpose in the third act of life.


  1. EvelynCale

    February 27, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Good Read

    I agree, some people lie about their age and it's not helping them in any way. Acceptance is key. We should accept the fact the everybody grows old and it is something that happens normally. Instead of worrying about aging, why don't we just savor each moment and look back to our younger years with a smile.