Don’t just count your years, make your years count (Ernest Meyers)
Finally, a subject I’m qualified to write about: Old Age! Not that I feel old, but every time I bump into friends that I haven’t seen for a while, they remark how good and peaceful I look. Those comments remind me of what mourners at a funeral parlor recently said about the dearly departed, “My, doesn’t he look good? He looks so peaceful.”
So, I guess I’m qualified to write about the subject. Those of you who have yet to reach the apex of life may be wondering what it feels like to be old. The answer is it doesn’t. Everything feels the same mentally. We don’t age from the inside, so don’t worry about it. Of course, my body has changed just as the condition of my old house has changed, but both body and house remain comfortable to live in, and with a minimum of maintenance, the same should be true for you.
You may also be wondering if there are any signs of old age other than looking good and peaceful. Well, from what I’ve read, there are three signs of old age. The first is memory loss. Regrettably, I’ve forgotten the other two…. But not to worry, for as Leroy Satchel Paige (1906 ~ 1982) said, “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, age don’t matter.”
Interestingly, American health and fitness expert Stu Mittleman wrote, “We are not limited by our old age; we are liberated by it.” (You can learn more about Stu at http://www.worldultrafit.com/whois.html
I agree with Stu that old age liberates us. For as we grow in experience and wisdom, we also grow in confidence, which frees us to do whatever we wish. Also, retirement brings with it the time to do everything we wanted to do but were too busy to do while working.
Although it’s impossible to avoid GETTING old, it’s possible to avoid BECOMING old. Here are some tips:
1. KEEP BUSY. One of my favorite Japanese TV shows documents the lives of ordinary people 80 ~ 100+ years old. They are all in good health and enjoy life to the fullest. What do they all have in common? Well, they follow the examples of George Burns, Grandma Moses, and Bob Hope by leading active lives; they keep busy. They would rather wear out than rust out. Regardless of your age, engage in life fully. If you’re not active, you’re not living.
2. EXERCISE. In 1996, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that only about 17% of people over 65 are regularly active. Regular exercise, even if it is just walking, does more than keep you nimble and flexible. Exercise also reduces bodily toxins and maintains glandular health. It also tones the muscles, makes the heart stronger, and strengthens the bones. Stay active and you’ll stay healthy.
3. EXERCISE THE BRAIN. Memory loss and a reduction in the capacity for learning may occur in some of the elderly. However, it is not because of their age as much as it is because of their failure to tax their brains. New brain cells grow throughout our lives, but unless we continue to use our mental faculties, the nerve cells will atrophy. It’s simply a case of use them or lose them. Reading, studying, and learning new skills act as medicine and exercise for the brain. Working with computers and the latest technological marvels is another excellent way to stay mentally fit.
4. MINIMIZE STRESS. Stress is the enemy of physical health and mental acuity. It reduces blood flow to the brain, reduces memory recall, and reduces learning ability. In the physical realm, stress is the leading cause of most diseases. Illness is aptly named “disease” because it is caused by being at dis-ease (stressed). To fight stress, take up yoga, taichi, or meditation. Long walks in the park, beautiful music, or painting also work wonders.
5. A HEALTHY DIET. The so called Mediterranean Diet (one high in fish, fruit and vegetables) forms a good basis. Additionally, seniors should make sure they get enough calcium and fiber in their diet as well.
6. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER. Dehydration is a common problem with the elderly. The recommendation is one ounce of water per kilo (2.2 pounds) of body weight. It’s important to remember that alcohol, coffee, and soda pop do not count as water. On the contrary, as diuretics, their consumption doesn’t add, but further reduces the amount of water in the body.
7. LAUGHTER. Laughter is a valuable aid to our well-being. It keeps us young by boosting our physical and psychological health. To learn more about the value of laughter, see: http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/laughter.htm
In keeping with the spirit of laughter, here’s a joke about the elderly:
Three old men are at the doctor’s office for a memory test. The doctor says to the first man, “What is three times three?”
“274,” answers the man.
The doctor says to the second man, “It’s your turn. What is three times three?”
“Tuesday,” replies the second man.
The doctor says to the third man, “Okay, your turn. What’s three times three?”
“Nine,” says the third man.
“That’s great!” says the doctor. “How did you get that?”
“Simple,” says the third man. “I subtracted 274 from Tuesday.”
8. EMBRACE OLD AGE. When you embrace old age, you’re embracing life. Don’t run or hide from it. My wife’s hair may no longer be black, but she is just as beautiful and a lot wiser. No wonder Marcus Annaeus Seneca (3 BCE ~ 65 CE) said, “As for old age, embrace and love it. It abounds with pleasure if you know how to use it. The gradually declining years are among the sweetest in a man’s life, and I maintain that, even when they have reached the extreme limit, they have their pleasure still.”
9. HAVE SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO. By setting goals and cultivating hobbies, you’ll always have something to look forward to. Your next vacation or art class, an upcoming meeting with a friend, a visit to the theater, these can fill your life with enthusiasm and passion.
Here’s how three others expressed the same idea: a) “While one finds company in himself and his pursuits, he cannot feel old, no matter what his years may be” (Amos Bronson Alcott, 1799 ~ 1888), b) “Keep on raging – to stop the aging.” (Dale Carnegie, 1888 ~ 1955) “No one grows old by living, only by losing interest in living.” (Marie Beynon Ray) In other words, we will remain young as long as we are planning for tomorrow.
10. WONDERMENT. We are miracles living in the midst of miracles. How is it possible to live without wonder and awe? And when we experience it, how is it possible not to be like children, not to be young at heart? Or as Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1873 ~ 1954) wrote, “You must not pity me because my sixtieth year finds me still astonished. To be astonished is one of the surest ways of not growing old too quickly.”
11. CHARACTER. “Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up wrinkles the soul. . . . You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” (Douglas MacArthur, 1880 ~ 1964)
12. POSITIVE ATTITUDE. Pause and reflect on this quote from Samuel Ullman (1840 ~ 1924), “When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.”
13. REMAIN IN LOVE. Stay in love with life, friends, learning, hobbies, clubs. For as Benjamin Franklin (1706 ~ 1790) wrote, “Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.”
The renown geriatrician, Dr. Muriel R. Gillick wrote a good book on old age. It is called, “The Denial of Aging: Perpetual Youth, Eternal Life, and Other Dangerous Fantasies” and is available at Amazon.com.
I don’t mind growing old because it’s the only way I know of having a long life. I hope you feel the same way or better.
For more on old age, see: http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/growingold.htm