Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Secrets to Aging

It Has Nothing to Do with Age, was published in 2011. In my book, I interviewed in-depth 7 athletes, 65 years of age and older who competed in extraordinary sports. Many of these individuals were friends that I knew from my competitions. I told their stories and mine. I attempted to answer many of the why we do what we do, as well as providing some insight into creating a healthier lifestyle by adjusting attitude and behavior. In fact, I came up with seven prescriptions to lengthen one’s lifespan. The seven prescriptions are as follows: 1. Get inspired. It’s okay to begin a new activity by taking baby steps. A physical activity can help in improving physical fitness, losing weight, reducing anxiety and minimizing depression. 2. Find meaning in an activity outside of family, career, or raising kids; it can build self-esteem. 3. Enrich your emotional life by making physical contact, having friends, sharing interests, and learning about others, by becoming part of a new group. 4. Realize that there’s more to life than the accumulation of material things; having the biggest toy does not result in happiness. 5. Participate in outdoor activities to help nurture spirituality. 6. Find a way to escape, read about other people’s adventures. 7. Find inspiration and motivation through the illuminating profiles of eight remarkable senior athletes found within this book. Let’s see how these 7 prescriptions correlate with the recent December 27, 2015 article in The New York Times titled “The Wisdom of the Aged.” In this article, the writer followed individuals that were 85 years of age and older. Let’s take a look at what these individuals said about their aging. None of these had been competitive athletes. Most lived in the New York City area; and some lived independently and some lived in subsidized housing. The following are some of their words in answer to the question- what is the secret for long life: 1. To be engaged with life; to do a lot of things. 2. Moving around every day. 3 Walk a lot, drink a lot of water, and try to be happy, which is not very easy. 3. I’m sure the secret is hard work. 4. Color my hair, wear makeup and flirt only with the cute guys. And I always take the stairs. 5. Don’t stop breathing, don’t kvetch, and respect other people for who they are. 6. Make yourself enjoyable and interesting to other people. 7. Not overdoing food, not overdoing liquor, not overdoing sex, not overdoing walking or hiking or anything-just not overdoing anything. 8. I try to be nice to people because I wanted to be treated as such. I do have my ice cream every day. Two scoops is enough. Or maybe three. 9. Do not carry grudges around. 10. Bridge during the day, Manhattan at night. 11. Beware of the pleasure that you get when you do something for the people that really need it. One 93-year-old male wondered why he was in an article pertaining to old people. This man finished the year with an exhibition of his films and photographs in Brescia, Italy and the publication of an anthology of his writings. “Scrapbook of the 60s; Writings 1954-2000” [Spector]. For him, focusing on the present and doing well in it was very important. He does not want to get distracted in every day politics as that are his keys that assist him in maintaining his optimism. In his early history, this man, as a child, experienced the Soviet invasion while living in Lithuania; and was placed in a Nazi forced labor camp as well. This young gentlemen certainly gets inspired; has meaning in his work, not concerned about accumulation of material things and escapes into his wonderful world of films, photographs and writings. He has overcome numerous emotional and physical handicaps and loss as a child. I marvel at his adaptability and his hardiness and ability continue to be productive and contribute to society in spite of his horrendous past. He wasn’t given a full deck of cards. To briefly summarize what these others have said, are as follows: 1. To be engaged, and currently active in living. 2. Being physically active. 3. Maintaining a good attitude, and not being critical, or complaining. 4. Enriching one’s life by interpersonal interaction. 5. Notice that no one talked about the accumulation of material things as being the secret for long life. Briefly, in conclusion, I do not think that aging is about happiness or the pursuit of happiness. It’s certainly not about having the most or the biggest toys. Aging is about living fully in the present, which means being physically active, productive, and loving. It’s about making wise mental and physical health decisions so that one can take full advantage of all available opportunities.

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