Sit, get comfy and let’s talk.
I’ve been thinking a lot about aging and what aging well means to me. I’ll be 60 in June. Inwardly this makes me go eeeekkkk!!!! I’m not overly concerned about the outward signs of aging as much as being a healthy, vibrant, energetic woman well into old age.
I’ve been hitting the books and doing some research on what this commitment to the next 30 plus years could mean. Turns out healthy aging is gonna be a LOT of work.
I can see you aren’t a bit surprised. Me either.
And puleeze…. feel free to join me in this “work” because although I’d love nothing better than to have you join me in my pain and agitation, it’s even better to have company for the wins because there will be plenty to celebrate —or this blog will no longer be called The HAPPY, it will be called The Sad, Sad, Life of A Grouchy Crone.
Perhaps you’ve already thought about what it means to “age well”and have a plan that you’re working. Or perhaps you’ve been living a healthy fit life for most of your life. If indeed you’ve always taken fitness seriously and ate right most of your life then I am amazed and grateful to have you here. You, my dearest are aging well and I’m thrilled for you.
I take fitness and healthy eating seriously but not always consistently. I can use your tips and tricks for keeping motivated. I need people to tell me me to my face there is no spry, 102 year old woman living in the South of France who eats only cheese and bread and drinks gallons of red wine every single day and joins the village children in a soccer game each afternoon.
You’re rolling your eyes.
I know, I know. I can’t ignore statistics and proven medical research. According to Younger Next Year for Women by Dr. Henry Lodge and Chris Crowley, one of the best books I’ve read so far about aging and wellness, 70 percent of aging is decay. Got that? 70% of aging is decay!!! I am literally decaying as I write this.
But here’s the thing: We can escape about 50 percent of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney and liver problems, by staying active, avoiding eating crap, (their words lol) and by improving and/ or keeping our social connections. Turns out our social interests and connections are good for our brains.
In other words, we’re still going to get old but we’ve upped our chances of not developing all the chronic illnesses we associate with getting older because we’re slowing down the decay of our bodies and brains by moving, eating right and not crawling into a dark hole to be alone.
Lodge and Crowley’s plan is not a quick-fix. The reason the book is called Younger Next Year is because it might take us a year or more to work up to the plan’s goals in order to see results. Results in your blood levels, strength level, pain level, endurance, etc. The goal is to exercise 6 days a week for 45 minutes ( 4 aerobics, 2 strength) for the rest of your life. Depending on what kind of shape we’re in to begin with, it might take us up to a year to get to that point.
So, I’ll confess first. Here’s my starting point. Over the past two years I’ve become an avid yoga girl and a Fitbit walker but I’ve been next to nil on the aerobic and strength training.
I’ve spent the last six weeks adding those things back into my day starting with 15 minutes. For the past few weeks, I’m holding steady at the 25-30 minute mark with a one hour community yoga class once a week. I’m amazed by how much stronger and energetic I feel with the addition of strength training and aerobics. I didn’t feel bad before but now I feel really good, which is nice. The book explains how to begin and how to build up your time. The goal is taking small steps with consistency and I’ll talk more about habits and consistency in a future post.
Food-wise I’ve cut way, way back on my wine (so sad) cheese (I’m sobbing here) but breads and other starches are still kind of iffy. Let me just be clear and say that if you brought me a crusty, warm baguette this morning, I would grab it, tuck it under my arm like a football and try to run away from you so I could have it all to myself.
Oh, it’s ok, I can’t run far because I’m not that fit. You my friend, if you’ve been working out and eating right could probably snatch it from me. Give me a year and perhaps I’ll only want one thin slice of your baguette and then invite you to the playground to play soccer with the village children.
All kidding aside, my need to cut back on some of the foods I love and have a safe, reliable plan for aging well has everything to do with my deepest fear about aging.
My deepest fear about growing old is that I end up like my dear Mom, in a wheelchair, unable to move. My Mom’s case is complicated but at it’s root, her being wheelchair bound and in a nursing home for two years was due to a cascading effect of many health issues that all began and were caused by her refusal to do the physical therapy needed after a total knee replacement.
My happy, fun, active Mom and playful Grandma to her grandkids and great grandkids simply quit moving. She had no chronic health issues like heart disease, kidney problems or diabetes. She played street hockey and shot baskets with my son and daughter well into her seventies yet through her failure to do the physical therapy and continue moving, her muscles became unusable and she withered before our eyes, physically and mentally.
Use this link to look up the word sarcopenia. If we don’t use our muscles we will lose them. “Use it or lose it” is true. When Mom passed she was 82. A good long life but there’s always that question in my mind; “What if?”
Now here’s a happy flip-side of my Mom’s situation. My mother-in-law was 92 when she fell and broke her hip. She survived the hip replacement surgery, went to a senior rehab/physical therapy home, kept moving even when she didn’t want to, did the therapy and was able to go back to her own home where she remains to this day. Almost every Friday afternoon hubby or one of his sisters takes her to the beauty salon to get her hair done. She walks with a walker but prepares her own meals, gets out of the house once or twice a week with a family member and is as sharp as a tack. She’ll be 94 in October.
According to Crowley and Lodge we’re never too old to become strong, fit and remain independent if we’re willing to make some changes.
There are of course, no guarantees. I could do form all the suggested healthy habits in Younger Next Year, or any other book about healthy aging and still end up with cancer or be in a horrific accident before my 60th birthday. I can’t control those things, I can only control what I think and do right now in the present moment and let God take care of the rest. I feel I have a better shot at living a long healthy life standing on my own two legs, doing all the things I love with all the people I love if I continue working my plan to age well.
I’ll keep you updated on my research, the actions I’m taking and let you know how I’m doing; what’s easy, what’s hard, what I’ve learned.
What do you think? Any deep fears about aging? What would you like to do about it?
Do you have aging well seniors in your life who are inspirations to you? I love hearing about “old” people engaging in life and doing exciting things! Let me know in the comments:)
Have a happy, healthy week!
Tons of hugs,