5 TED Talks That Will Make You View Aging Differently

For a lot of people, myself included, growing old is something that happens to other people. But now, as my 50th birthday draws closer (it’s March 8, in case you want to send chocolate), I’m beginning to realize that it may just happen to me too.

I’m not upset by the idea, but it has given me pause for thought. I’m more concerned about my health than I used to be and I find myself taking stock more than I used to, as well. If I really want to be a better human or leave behind a legacy beyond my capacity for consuming baked goods, I need to up my game. I can no longer rely on time, as I clearly have less of it than I did 10 years ago.

I’m excited by the challenge that aging gracefully presents, but I get not everyone feels this way. For some, the mere thought of turning 50 (or even 40, for that matter) has them breaking out in hives. That’s understandable, given how we’re constantly bombarded with ‘younger is better’ messages from the media, on social media and at the movies.

The thing is, growing older is actually quite a lot of fun. Granted, you have to be in good health to really appreciate the years adding up, but then, that’s true of any age. If you’re at all apprehensive about getting older, these TED talks will inspire you to take a different perspective on aging.

HOW I BECAME AN ENTREPRENEUR AT 66 BY PAUL TASNER

Take Paul Tasner, for example. He waited until the ripe old age of 66 to found his own startup, proving that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. Paul spent 40 years working for someone else, but thanks to being let go (although it didn’t look like good news at the time), he decided to take a chance on himself and start his own business. Now in its seventh year, PulpWorks, Inc continues to go from strength to strength as it strives to mold a better world.

OLDER PEOPLE ARE HAPPIER BY LAURA CARSTENSEN

As the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity and someone who has studied extensively the effects on wellbeing of extended lifetimes, it’s safe to say Laura Carstensen knows a thing or two about what makes older folks tick.

In previous centuries the average human life span was significantly shorter, but have the added years we now enjoy increased our quality of life? It turns out the answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Research shows that older people are happier, more content and have a more positive outlook on the world. That’s certainly true for me.

LIFE’S THIRD ACT BY JANE FONDA

In her illuminating talk, Jane Fonda —who just turned eighty— has some wonderful ideas for how we can best use the extra 30 years that have been added to our life expectancy. As she so rightly says, these years aren’t just a footnote. We need to re-imagine this new phase of our lives and make it really mean something.

We’re still living with the old paradigm of age as an arch: you’re born, peak at mid-life and then decline into decrepitude. Jane believes a more appropriate metaphor for aging is a staircase: the upward ascension of the human spirit, bringing us into wisdom, wholeness and authenticity.

LET’S END AGEISM BY ASHTON APPLEWHITE

Ashton Applewhite says we need to think differently about growing older. We need to challenge the assumption that older people are alike and that aging impoverishes us. As she so rightly points out, aging is a natural, lifelong, powerful process that unites us all.

Unfortunately, that’s not how the majority of us view growing older. Instead, we unthinkingly assume that it’s fraught with depression, diapers and dementia. This attitude is due to ageism, something Ashton claims is the last socially sanctioned prejudice. Given what we see in the media everyday, it’s hard to argue with her on this point.

Ashton wants to catalyze a movement to make discrimination on the basis of age as unacceptable as any other kind. She’s written a book called This Chair Rocks if you want to find out more.

12 TRUTHS I LEARNED FROM LIFE AND WRITING BY ANNE LAMOTT

A few days shy of her 61st birthday, writer Anne Lamott decided to write down everything she knew for sure. She says there’s so little truth in popular culture, it’s good to be sure of a few things.

Anne reminds us that our inside self is outside of time and space. It doesn’t have an age, rather, we’re every age we’ve ever been. Anne’s talk is funny, poignant, wise and down to earth, and her truths are proof that with age comes wisdom. A lot of it.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM 2,000 OBITUARIES BY LUX NARAYAN

While not specifically about aging, I wanted to add Lux Narayan’s talk as an added bonus because it serves as a powerful reminder of what a life well lived really means. The founder of Unmetric starts his day with scrambled eggs and the question: “Who died today?” Why?

As he rightly points out, the front of the newspaper is filled largely with bad news, highlighting man’s failures. Whereas the end of the paper —the obituaries— highlights man’s accomplishments.

Over a 20-month period, Narayan analyzed 2,000 New York Times obituaries and gleaned, in just a few words, what achievement looks like over a lifetime. It turns out those immortalized in print can teach us a lot about a life well lived.

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99 comments

Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John B
John B9 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Deborah S
Deborab S11 months ago

Thank you. I am 67 years old. I don't feel like except when My arthritis is kicking up or I don't feel well.

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sharon b
sharon b11 months ago

First what is TED. But on topic this is wonderful and upbeat but not all of us are so lucky. Ill health such as arthritis and others and poverty as well as a lack of a support group can make oging something to dread. No I am not whining just stating a reality of many aging Americans. Genetics plays a part in health and the break down of our society has hurt many Americans.

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Lesa D
Lesa D11 months ago

thank you Angela...

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heather g
heather g11 months ago

Good choice of TED Talks, thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S11 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S11 months ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim Ven11 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim V
Jim Ven11 months ago

thanks for sharing

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