by LIZ TAYLOR
We can learn many lessons from watching how other people age — what they do and don’t do right, their attitudes, their coping skills. Mainly, aging successfully — or as I say, “deliberately” — takes planning.
A few people are naturally good planners — they’re the ones who stock emergency food and water in their garage for the next big earthquake. The rest of us know we should, but an earthquake seems remote.
Well, getting old is about as certain a bet as you can make. The only alternative is to die young. The average age of death in America is almost 80, while many live well into their 90s and 100s.
The only way I want to grow old is healthy and independent. This means having the energy, muscles and brain matter to take care of myself – meals, laundry, reading, yard, house and friends — no matter how long I live. While no one ever has total control over their lives, there are three critical factors that help us stay as healthy and independent as possible:
1. Eating right. Malnutrition is a serious problem among older adults, not because of poverty (though for some it is) but because of poor appetite, lack of energy, depression, no groceries in the house, and – common — eating potato chips all day. Our mothers knew: we need nutritious fuel to keep us feeling good.
2. Having relationships with people – talking to someone at the bank is as important as chatting with a good friend or grandchild. The important thing is to be social frequently so we don’t fall into the abyss of loneliness and depression (something that often happens when we stop driving and have no one to talk to all day). Community — building relationships with people we trust — is one of the essential elements of aging deliberately.
3. The third and most important factor is, yes (drums roll): exercise. Using our muscles, breathing deeply (even panting), getting blood and oxygen to our brains – there is nothing more important to keeping us strong and our brains alert.
Some people love to exercise, even into their 70s, 80s, and 90s. The rascals — they move and act decades younger.
I’m not one, never have been. However, 40 years ago when research showed the essential health-inducing attributes of exercise, I began making myself do it. I fall off the wagon frequently, but then I get back on. Over and over. I walk daily; I’ve started yoga again. One of my favorite exercises was Silver Sneakers at our gym on Lopez until it ended.
Great news! Work is afoot to get the Silver Sneakers program and a new gym and wellness center operating at 131 Weeks (across from Lopez Market). I’m delighted! For more information, call 468-3199.
In addition, this January, I’ll be holding my introductory workshop on planning for your aging, with a series of other topics to follow. Watch the Islands’ Calendar and the Family Resource Center’s class schedule for details.
Liz Taylor has worked in the aging field for almost 40 years. You can reach her at email@example.com.