Aging (some prefer to spell it ageing) is the process of getting older. Everything does this – it’s a function of the passage of time. People, pets, cars, homes, books, wine, cheese, athletes, art, furniture – literally everything – get older over time. However, there is a major difference in noting or being aware of the passage of time (birthdays or anniversaries, for instance, or watching the days go by on the calendar) and an identification with this phenomenon (feeling older in spirit).
As we get older, and as we age in place, are we doing what we can or what is available to us to stay just a little bit ahead of what the passage of time is doing and how it might be affecting us, or are we falling behind?
We have many things that we can do to keep the effects of aging from taking their toll on us. Still, there are things that happen just because we are getting older – wear and tear on our joints that can produce mild to moderate arthritis, for instance. Other examples are vision declines in the form of weaker vision, more sensitivity to light or glare, or cataracts. There might be other sensory declines that happen such as a decrease in the high and low frequencies of sound that we can hear.
Many other aspects of aging, however, can be met head-on and tempered. Balance is a concern, but there are many exercises that we can do to strengthen our muscles and sense of balance. Walking, bike riding, weight lifting, dancing, cardio training, jogging, golf, tennis, pickleball, swimming, boxing, martial arts (such as tai chi or qi gong), and other weight-bearing, flexibility, and core-strengthening activities. We have the power – regardless of our ability before undertaking a restorative fitness program – to improve our health and counteract the effects of aging.
Diet – what we eat or refrain from eating – has an effect on the aging process as does tea and coffee and vitamin supplements. There is a difference of opinion as to what foods, beverages, and supplements – and in what quantities – are beneficial and how they keep us younger feeling if not looking and acting. Nevertheless, this is part of the overall picture of health.
There are several other activities that people enjoy or pursue in the later years that helps to keep them young in spirit. The Boomers are leading the way in this although they are not the first to discover this. Boomers, as is commonly known, are redefining retirement, with many of them working well beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. When they are forced to leave a position sue to mandatory retirement, they go someplace else or start their own business. Consultants with years of experience in their field are in high demand. Ask many Boomers about retirement, and the answer will be that there is no plan to do this. They may slow down a little, but formal retirement is not something they envision for themselves. This activity, social and mental, helps to keep them young in spirit also.
Volunteerism is a similar activity that many people enjoy doing to get them out of the house, be around other people, feel like they are being useful and helpful, and be mentally engaged. People who have retired from full-time employment may put in as many or more hours as a volunteer for one or more causes each week. Those who are still working often add volunteering to their schedule to provide a sense of fulfillment for them.
If the infomercials are any indication, there is a tremendous emphasis on looking younger as well as feeling younger – keeping one’s hair or even regrowing it, eliminating wrinkles, supplementing the natural collagen in our skin to look younger, having cosmetic surgery, and using new makeup strategies are touted as ways to keep a more youthful appearance. Looking younger on the outside can’t hurt the way we see ourselves on the inside.
The point is that we have a choice. Even if we have limited abilities and aren’t able to leave our homes easily, we can remain younger mentally with a youthful attitude and outlook on life. We have a choice as to how we grow older, regardless of any physical challenges we might be facing or living with that influence how we feel.
As we are aging – and as our clients (and those that we can identify to serve) are getting older – we need to remain vibrant, notwithstanding any physical limitations that might affect our activities. Vibrancy here is an attitude. We have a choice to just let the days go by and to grow older with the passage of time or to live each day with meaning.