Recent lifestyle trends that encouraged people to streamline their possessions to include only items that are truly useful or “spark joy” have given way to a sense of style and comfort reminiscent of grandma’s house. Margareta Magnusson, an artist turned author, has some life wisdom to offer in this regard in her new book “The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly: Life Wisdom from Someone Who Will (Probably) Die Before You.
Magnusson also penned the surprise bestseller “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” – an empowering guide to motivate people to deal with their clutter rather than leave a mess behind for their loved ones to navigate. At 86, Magnusson has plenty of advice to offer to help older adults seize every opportunity life offers, even while acknowledging that getting older has its difficulties – like the aches and pains of an aging body.
By reframing the obligations we encounter in daily life with a sense of gratitude, older adults can live with greater joy. Even bill-paying can be cherished in a way when one is reminded that they are fortunate to have money available, or the cognitive ability to manage their own finances. The Swedish phrase Magnusson draws this experience from is “kärt besvär” – meaning “dear or cherished” blended with “pain”.
As a recent New York Times article reports, aging and longevity experts explain that Magnusson’s approach to aging leans into the idea that life experience teaches older adults that emotions are often complex and seniors are uniquely able to see the joy in moments, even while holding space for loss or pain.
In order to Age Exuberantly, according to Magnusson, older adults can benefit by surrounding themselves with younger people who expose them to new ideas and help them revisit their own experiences earlier in life. Spending time with younger people has been also been found to benefit the aging brain, providing social interaction that keeps older adults sharp. Because generations don’t naturally interact socially often, it may take an intentional effort to connect with younger people by joining a service organization or reaching out to spend time or talk with younger family members.
The last bit of advice Magnusson shares is to be flexible, and curious, and to explore life – to keep saying yes to new experiences, and maintain an open mind. As we age, there is a tendency to stick with the familiar, but by limiting ourselves, how much joy, richness, and purpose might we be missing? Try saying yes more often, and see where it may lead. The journey may surprise you.