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Jim Stinson

By: Jim Stinson on September 30th, 2013

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The Difference Between Age and Maturity

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Growing in Maturity

And The Mountains Echoed is a fascinating and disturbing novel by Khalem Hosseni, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. In heart wrenching detail, he tells the story of a family from Afghanistan over a sixty-year period, each one of who continue to be affected by decisions made in earlier generations. It is a sometimes-grim reminder that, while we are free to alter our responses to the events of our lives, thus changing ourselves in some real way, we are always to some extent the product of our past.

A Product of Our Past

We all know this as a truism. How often we’ve responded to a situation in a certain way and discovered, “I’m just like my father (or mother, sister, friend).”We have all discovered ways in which the past has shaped us into who we are today. All too often though we use that discovery as an excuse for keeping bad habits, inappropriate responses to others, and other escapes from taking responsibility for our own response to the events of our lives. There is a part of all of us that finds comfort in feeling that “we have always been this way, as have our family members.” We take comfort in seeing and responding to life as we’ve been shaped to see it. It is so much easier than accepting the challenge of growing, which always involves changing, the challenge of seeing our lives through different lenses.

Growing Old or Growing in Maturity

Growing old is relatively easy. All we have to do is to keep having birthdays. Growing in maturity is a different story. It takes work to see the effects of aging through new eyes. It takes work to break from the past ways of seeing passed down to us from others from a different time and generation. While anyone can grow old, not everyone can grow mature. That takes a willingness to be aware of our past, without letting it control us. That takes openness to seeing ever-present changes and limitations as more than a sign of growing old. That takes a decided effort to see the changes and limitations as an invitation to grow in new directions, rather than to be daunted by what “we can no longer do.” Maturity is seeing the reality of our present situation and allowing ourselves to grow through them rather than to be diminished by them.

The Adventure of Aging

A challenge for any of us who are concerned for an older adult (especially those of us working in older adult communities) is to provide opportunities for helping persons see a variety of ways to respond to any situation, encouraging them to leave learned ways of responding and adopt new ways of living. Creating environments in which the older adult can explore hidden talents, pursue dreams, and learn new skills is a must. Providing life-affirming events and settings opens new possibilities of seeing and being for an older adult who often sees old age as an ending rather than an opening for new adventure, for new life.

In selecting senior living arrangements for oneself or someone else, we would do well to ask how well those arrangements might contribute to maturity rather than simply aging in a different setting.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn to accept the challenge of growing old by seeing your life through different lenses, rather than living as a product of your past.

  • Growing old is easy, but to grow in maturity is to let go of the past, see the reality of your present situation, and allow yourself to grow.

  • Don’t be afraid to adopt new ways of thinking, learn new skills, or pursue dreams as you grow in maturity.

  • Do you see old age as an ending rather than an opening for new adventure or new life?

  • When considering senior living options, look for a community that offers life affirming opportunities to grow in maturity as you grow in years.


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About Jim Stinson

I first became an ordained member of the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church fifty years ago. Through my time with the pastoral ministry, I worked extensively with older adults, many of whom were members of my congregation. I also served as the Director of Spiritual Life for United Methodist Homes from July 2002 until my retirement in July 2015, providing guidance and support to residents, family members, and staff. I love reminding people that “old” is not a dirty word and encourage others to adopt a healthy perspective on aging. I am also the author of a book, Just Because I Am Old – A Practical and Theological Guide To Caring, which was recently published in 2014.

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.