Thoughts on Aging & Longevity

You know you’re getting older when the Happy Hour is a nap!*

(Quote outside a church near where I live.)

 

Several years ago I had a book called Aging is a Lifelong Affair by Ben Weininger. (Available at Barnes & Noble.) I don’t think I ever finished the book, but I loved the title. If we think about it, we are aging the minute we are born, so why do we get so upset about getting older?  Part of it is that our Western culture puts so much emphasis on YOUTH. The Japanese word sabi (rhymes with bobby) means beautiful patina, but in traditional Japanese culture, where there is a strong reverence for ancestors, the word has a more extensive meaning. It refers to the beauty that takes hundreds of years to achieve. So being old does not mean something (even a person) has lost beauty.

Older Japanese woman

Betty Friedan, well-known for her book The Feminine Mystique that triggered the women’s movement, wrote another book that I read from cover to cover, called The Fountain of Age. Friedan’s tome (670 pages) includes many studies that point to healthy aging. It’s time for me to reread the book, since I was only on the fringe of becoming a “senior citizen” when the book came out in 1993. The end of the book has a marvelous “confession” by the author:

“I began this quest with my own denial and fear of age.  It ends with acceptance, affirmation, and celebration….I am myself at this age.”


While searching for ideas for this essay, I started to read this month’s AARP Magazine with Clint Eastwood  gracing the cover with his magnetism, even into his 80s. (See photo below.) There was a very interesting article called “The Minnesota Miracle,” a story how small town folks became motivated to add years to their lives.  I then realized that my focus needed to be broadened to include longevity, since aging has a negative connotation, while longevity has a more positive sound. The article lists nine ways to boost longevity, based on a study done in 200 on the Blue Zones, those places on the planet where people live the longest, as in Okinawa, with health and vitality a part of the formula. (Google Blue Zones for more information on this topic.)

Here are the nine ways:

1. Keep moving – This does not mean working out in the gym, necessarily, but emphasizes natural movement, as in  gardening and walking. In the Blue Zone, residents don’t belong to a health club or diet program.

2. Find purpose and pursue it with a passion. (What are you waiting for?)

3. Slow down. Work less, rest, take vacations. (This does not mean spending gobs of money. A trip to the shore or to visit friends can be a “vacation.”)

4. Stop eating—when you are 80% full.

5. Dine on plants- Eat more veggies, less meat and less processed food. (I love this one!)

6. Drink red wine. Do it consistently but in moderation.

7. Join a group. Create a healthy social network.

8. Feed your soul. Engage in spiritual activities.

9. Love your tribe. Make family a high priority.

The older I get, the more I realize that age is a state of mind.  I remember seeing a group of posters of people in different stages of their lives, one of which was Maggie Kuhns, head of the Gray Panther Network. (I read her autobiography and may review it.) Each poster said,

“The Age You are is the Best Age to Be!”

Maybe the New Year is a good time to look at small steps you can take to be healthier, so you can he happier, because I do believe that a healthy person has a better outlook on life than an unhealthy one, whether it be mental, physical, or spiritual health. There is JOY (my theme for 2010)in getting up in the morning and facing the day feeling vigorous and ready to take on the day’s challenges.  Let’s do it! If you want to email me with questions about dietary changes(my area of experience and study) to be healthier, I would love to hear from you. My email is menupause2006@yahoo.com.

 

I saved my favorite photo for last!

A  couple of years ago, we took a road trip while visiting family out west. Between the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon, we stopped at a Native American road stand where jewelry, pottery, and other crafts were sold. I took this picture of this marvelous older woman whose face is like a map of her life. I think she is beautiful and is obviously still active.

*Napping is natural and I don’t think it is necessarily a sign of old age, as this quote suggests. I napped in college before dinner so I could study later. Israeli kibbutzniks napped when I was there and said the problem with Americans is that we don’t nap!

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Aging & Longevity

  1. Excellent! I abhore the newspapers when I see, “The elderly 62 year old woman.” Why
    should 62 be elderly? The old 66 year old grandmother, says the press. Longevity is not
    respected. Too much focus is on being young, shapely, and sexy. Wisdom from longevity is
    the true beauty.

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