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Aging moderately, if not gracefully
There are scientific studies, performed by real rsearchers in white lab coats, purporting to show that people over 50 do not actually suffer much memory loss, that our ability to store and retrieve information declines just ever so slightly over the years.
Bill Geist, The Big Five-Oh!
At 40 you know you’re not as young as you used to be. At 50, you realize it almost every day.
Brian King, 52,
U.S. News & World Report
At 70, it’s difficult to even remember that you were once young.
Forgetting [you’re not as young as you used to be] can be real painful. Recently, while coaching a high school rugby team, King joined in the scrum. A young man tossed him to the ground, leaving him breathless and in need of emergency treatment at the hosptial. It took weeks to recover…I expected solace, but instead, my family said, “What, are you crazy?” King said.
From an article in U.S. News & World Report
Lately, things have been going my way, more or less. I eat a moderately healthy diet, walk, keep mentally alert on the Internet, have occasional stimulating conversations, recently observed my 40th anniversary since quitting smoking, did okay during a recent physical, despite not so great blood reassure and cholesterol numbers… All this, and then suddenly the sheer existential fact of “old age” rears it’s ugly head and reminds me of all that’s wrong about aging.
Those photos you see in magazine and TV ads, and probably all over the I tether as well, of old people exercising, jogging, happy, wrinkled weathered faces lit up as with some inner glow? It’s all a sham. The reality is they’re deluding themselves and living in denial. Getting old incrementally and becoming weaker and less vital with each passing year is the real story. Let’s not fake it, but face it and live honestly, preparing ourselves for the ultimate passage from life to death. Be active mentally and physically as long as you can, but don’t pretend you don’t know what’s really going on. Consolidate your life wisdom in old age,and throw out the skin creams, magic youth potions, barbells and jogging shoes. You’ll be happier.
A magazine article cheerfully informs its male readers that after 50 basically, “men’s health really tanks.” I was outraged. The gloomy articles goes on to observe, once again, that women live seven years on average longer than men, they see the doctor much more frequently, check for signs of disease, have less stress, heart disease, etc. etc.
Okay, so? This longevity gap, for example, has been around for so long that men have become “fatalistic” about it,” the article goes on to say. I agree. It’s an awful statistic that I am sure the insurance people who work in actuarials, love.
One of my happiest and funniest work memories was the time I was given a big poobah of a birthday party at work for my own Big Five Oh. I took it all in stride way back then was rather blase about it. It was a fun event and I loved it. 50 is not old. It’s not like that milestone birthday was unexpected. So why the big deal? I had 15 more years of working ahead of me before I could retire and get that generous state pension, a very rare thing these days unless you work in government.
At any age past 30, we have to uphold a myth that tells us to ignore the creeping signs of aging and pretend we are never really going to get old. Or die. Getting old is what happens to “other people.”
My gosh, I watched Andy Rooney on and off for about 25 years on “60 Minutes,” and he never looks a day older. Same with Mike Wallace, and he was 80-something near the end of his heyday.
There’s plenty of hope out there.
What’s sad is when people my age pretend not only that they are never going to get old, but also that they can do whatever it is they did at 40, 50 and 60, and even do it better. If it means playing a vigorous game of tennis or soccer, or football or rugby and ending up in the emergency room, well lessons will be learned.
Many sedentary types take to the golf course. (That’s why I have never been able to fathom teenage golfers. It seems like an oxymoron).
As for me, I believe in taking it easy as far as physical activity and not overdoing it. I have two newly-purchased 5-pound weights I placed in a conspicuous spot so I can pick them up and curl my arms with them for a few minutes. As soon as I feel even slightly winded, I stop and work out with a stretch band for a few more minutes (or minute), after which I might reward myself with an oatmeal cookie.
What’s the need to prove anything? I will gladly run at a good clip in the rain to get to my car as quickly as possible. But that’s only a few yards. I remember wistfully when I could take take one and a half or two steps at a time up the stairwell at work. Just to prove I could. Not any more. I might trip and fall, for Pete’s sake.
My apartment is on the 4th floor, but will you spot me cautiously heaving myself up those four flights if the nearby elevator is working? Of course not. That’s just plain foolish.
When I was working, I brandished little acts of strength and endurance well into my sixties. Younger co-workers and I would walk about half a mile or so to a place where we liked to eat lunch downtown. I flew down the sidewalk at a very nice clip for my age, and it’s one of those things I’m still proud I can do — walk briskly, whether it’s at the grocery store or charging down the long aisles at my nearby Costco warehouse. My younger co-workers were impressed. I still walk up stairs and don’t get winded as long as it’s a two or three-story house or building. I must still be in moderately good shape. To me regular walking is the key to everything. It’s a gentle aerobic exercise and it staves off depression and sadness, I’ve discovered over decades of taking longish walks in my neighborhoods. But I don’t do foolish things like jog or work out, or do sit-ups and push-ups. What does that prove? Ridiculous. When you’re old and invisible to most younger people anyway, the main thing for health’s sake is not to be overweight, and especially not obese. I re-iterate hat brisk walking is the best exercise. But people of all ages want to flock to the big chain gym franchises and sweat and work out and do ridiculous strength -building g exercise mainly to build up muscles, six pack and and “feel good.”
Aging gracefully means acknowledging that you are not a high school rugby player anymore, accepting the fact that you are going to weigh more, have gray hair, less perfect teeth, more then a few wrinkles, and less overall get-up-and-go. That’s life. There’s no turning back the clock. Lately, I’ve been using the word “fatigued” instead of “tired,” to describe how I feel. That’s a first, and definite proof of aging. It kinda scares me, actually.
I can tell you there are centenarians out there who, looking back on their century of living, will sagely say the secret to a long life is moderation. And, as soon as I find one who will say that, I’ll confirm it for you. Moderation is just plain common sense. And, it’s good for you.