September is healthy aging month and it is also my birthday month! When I was 52, a friend told me I was in the "youth of old age". Now at 78 I guess I am officially there and I ask myself what “old age” means to me. We are freer than ever, since most of us have fewer responsibilities to others. At last we have time to take care of ourselves.
Health is a fascinating subject and old age can be a time to concentrate your efforts. There is so much to learn, and that keeps the brain active while you use new found knowledge to keep you healthy. It is more fun to take time for health than to have to take time for sickness.
In order for old age to be enjoyable and healthy, we must avoid the idea that one has to deteriorate mentally and physically in old age. I once heard Hugh Downs, when asked how he remained so energetic; say he would not dare do to his body now what he did in his youth. He took special care as to what he ate, got exercise, and did everything he could to assure his good health.
Being embarrassed because you are old makes no sense. I am happy to be 78. In other societies, old age is revered and respected because they know that age brings wisdom from which youngsters can learn. In America today, the goal seems to be look young, even though most of us are thoughtless and selfish when we are young. In the past "Grandma" was a person to look up to. Today "Granny" is cute, at best, and at worst a nuisance. Instead of saying "old person", we use euphemisms, like elderly, seniors, etc, as if there is something wrong with being old.
It is next to impossible to be healthy at age 78 eating the SAD (Standard American Diet) that makes up over 90 percent of what people eat, and has come to be accepted as “normal”. Healthy cells cannot be built with processed and fast foods. Taking a handful of drugs may keep you alive but it does not produce health.
There is much information available today about how we think affects our health. If we think old age is a terrible time when we will be at the mercy of disease (as the TV constantly shows us), it is likely that is just what will happen, Scientific studies have proven that our thoughts and the words we speak create a response in our cells. Our cells will get the message. It makes sense to think about what we want, not what we don't want, whatever our age. If you think this is hocus pocus, then I guess you don't believe "As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is", as spoken by Jesus, whom most of us worship and say we believe.
Page 2 of 2 - Old age is the time to become the person you always wanted to be, without the influence of others. It is a time to grow in spirit and think for yourself.
By age 78, I have had time to make amazing friends, and am learning to live in the present accepting life as it comes. I now know for sure that I cannot control others and must concentrate my efforts on self control. When we gain self control, it is easier give up our efforts to try to control others. As I have become old, I am kinder to myself and less critical of others. I realize that we are all doing the best we can; we are on our own path; and I am not the CEO of the world. It is not my job to judge.
Yes, by the time you are old, you have experienced a broken heart, often many times. You have lost loved ones, and may have even watched your child suffer or die. Our parents have died and many of us have lost our spouses to death. The broken hearts that come with old age give us strength, understanding, compassion, and a respect for what is truly valuable. We now know the joy of being imperfect, and know that it is okay.
We quit comparing ourselves to others and trade the competitiveness for a sense that we are all in this together and there is no separation. It is easier to see the good things in life, and I have even earned the right to be wrong. Yes, I like being old. It sets me free in that I have accepted the fact that I am not going to live forever. While I am here, I will not waste time lamenting on what could have been, or wishing things were different.
I love these comments about old age: One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young. Ah, being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.
(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, and wrote a weekly column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)