Relax. This is not my regular To Your Health column so no exercise recommendations today. At least for the rest of 2019, I’ll be alternating this Viewpoint column monthly with the To Your Health one I’ve been writing for years. April 2019, about my horse Major, was my first and now, “Aging…” for June.
In the days of the Roman Empire, average life span was 35 years. In 1900, in the U.S., it was still only 47. In 19 centuries, humans had added 12 years. And then, due to a combination of medical research finding ways to combat childhood diseases to treat and prevent more and more adult health concerns along with improving access to cleaner living conditions, by 2000 we were averaging 78 years! In just one century we added 30 years. Thirty more years of adulthood is good news for those of us who enjoy life, but I’m learning those years require lots of adapting.
While it’s true that much of what many call “aging” can really be attributed to inactivity, I’ve already written about all that. Yes, there are lifestyle choices that minimize the effects of many aspects. The fact is though, we can take good care of ourselves based on the guidance of research but it’s no guarantee of outcomes. We’re still subject to accidents and conditions and diagnoses that are not connected to our choices. I speak from experience on this. And if not catastrophic, we still have many additional years of gray hair, diminishing eyesight, hearing loss, arthritic joints, dental problems, hormonal changes, etc. Most of these are unavoidable.
Unavoidable…but medical research has given us tools that were previously not available (nor needed when the age span was only 47 years). To dye or not to dye, eyeglasses and contact lenses, hearing aids, joint replacements, periodontists–medical science has surely been helpful. But in the last area mentioned in the above paragraph (hormonal changes), I think nature had a much better plan. (This is a bit awkward to write about but I promise to be discreet and we’re all adults here.) For the first time in my life, aging allows some control of hormones and it’s welcomed. Nature had both genders on parallel paths as hormones changed. Male libidos to perpetuate the species faded along with the female capability to do the same. We then would presumably explore compatible ways to enjoy the closeness of being together. Medical research however found a way to stoke the fires of fading male egos with enhancements. I said I’d be discreet so suffice it to say this created a gender imbalance in terms of interests and receptiveness. (That was discreet, right?) Other than that, the enhancements science has given us help all of us deal with these added years.
I see lots of folks working toward achieving comforts and relaxing time (think retirement hammocks) for their 30+ years. If we’re seeking comforts though, all those unavoidables present themselves as problems. Obstacles to our earned downtime. Enjoyment dampeners. I am sharing the values I have chosen instead; seek uncertainty, not secure environments, which is exciting and can lead to discovery, look for obstacles not comforts and embrace the next challenging situation to become more alive! Then we’re no longer coasting (or actually descending). These additional adult years we’ve been given should be adventurous. Even start a brand new career perhaps instead of that hammock.
Age gracefully. Act your age. Address some bucket (as in before we kick the bucket) list. BAH! Too often those are just euphemisms for fading voluntarily. Accepting the realities of aging doesn’t mean loss of life’s pleasures. It means not denying the realities (which is what I was doing), but adapting and even embracing the changes.
With all that said, I’m going to close with this:
Years ago to help a client pass time on the treadmill, at her request, I read her poetry. This brought me an inquiry from her mother, who was over 100. She wanted to know the author and poem which said “Come grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” I found it and sent the info back. A few days later I received a hand-written card from the mother. After a nice thank you for my efforts, she wrote: “You’ve confirmed exactly what I’ve expected. The author was 29 years old and didn’t know a damn thing about growing old.”
Her sense of humor and spirit stole my heart…
Hey, Viewpoint is supposed to be personal.
Thanks for reading.