Aging Gracefully

In Chinese medicine, there is an essence called "Jing" that is created by the Kidney. This Jing is our basic life force, the stuff that keeps us young and vital. We are all born with a certain amount and quality of this. If someone is born sickly and has a short lifespan, it is said that they have weak or deficient Jing. During the course of our lives, this Jing is naturally depleted, but we can also burn it up faster if we treat ourselves poorly. A bad diet, drinking, smoking, drug use, and overwork can suck away at our Jing. Jing also plays a part in how we age. If you are a seventy year old man with a thick head of hair (a real one, that is), a full set of teeth, perfect hearing, and don't need a prescription for Viagra...well, congratulations. You've been blessed with good Jing. Weak Jing can lead to dental issues, hair loss, loss of sex drive...all of those maladies we associate with getting old.

I've been thinking about how people age a great deal lately as I approach my 37th birthday. As I get older, I find that it is more and more difficult to discern people's ages. I meet people who might be in their late 20's or their early 40's-I just can't tell. Is this a sign of my own aging? I think it might be. I remember thinking of fifty as the magical number that signified old age. Now, I meet lots of people in their 50's who look 30-and who can run circles around me, any day.

I've also met people my age who look and act like they are one step away from an AARP membership. I remember one aquaintance telling me, "You know, I really feel like I'm finally ready for old age. I can't wait to just sit around in a chair all day and do nothing but watch TV and have people take care of me. I'm done with youth; it's overrated." He was 35. He was also serious.

What is it that causes people to view themselves as young or old? Is it our health? Maybe, but I've got lots of beat-up clients who creak and groan, but remain young at heart. Is it one's ability to maintain the social life of a rockstar? Is it the general childishness within, that enthusiasm for life that only some of us are lucky enough to possess? Is it perhaps a combination of all of these things?

What do you think? What is it that makes you view someone as old or young for their age?