Updated: Feb 25
Does that sound like a peculiar question? The reason I began with that question is, what is the alternative? The alternative is clear, and I venture to say everyone asked that question would agree, not for themselves, not for their loved ones.
Pervasive ageist attitudes affect the respect, dignity and care, or lack thereof, afforded to many older adults whether in our nations nursing homes or in our communities.
Though rarely spoken, many among us desire to remain living to 100 years of age or more. The challenge is to live those years in optimal health and well-being. Though we may not hold all of those cards in our hand, we may hold a considerable number of them, dependent largely on how we choose to live our lives.
Though we may seem vital and vibrant at 50+ years of age, the challenge remains; how will we remain mentally, physically, and emotionally fit as we continue to advance on life’s journey. In large measure this depends upon our personal choices. I suggest that as “evolving elders” we must develop a personalized longevity plan, make choices according to the notion that we are “evolving elders”, and consistent with maximizing our potential for reaching our longevity goals. The aging journey is replete with twists, turns and unknowns but adopting these strategies can go a long way in counteracting attitudes of ageism.
As I’ve written previously, we are all both getting older and aging. The difference is that aging has a negative connotation. But that is precisely why I began this blogpost with the question as I did. People think of aging as declining in ability, both mental and physical. They associate aging with aged, or old. Oddly enough, an aged steak has more value, as does a wine that becomes finer with age.
Aging is a gradual, continuous process of natural change that begins in early adulthood.
The effects of time on our body is indisputable. Though we can slow the impact of decline in some areas, we cannot prevent them altogether. Aging merely reflects the effects of time on our bodies.
Similar to a car that has an engine that has been going for 50,000, 60,000 70,000 80,000, 90,000 miles. Despite the best maintenance checks, care, and attention, eventually the rugged grind of the miles accumulated results in breakdowns of one sought or another. They may range from small to large: a pinhole sized leak in a tube, an overheated radiator, a starter that won’t start or an engine, the heart of the system, that just eventually quits.
But what role do we play in the process? Just today I had a conversation with a neighbor who told me she doesn’t take her blood pressure medication because she feels ok. I told her what I wrote in a chapter that will be published in a book in the upcoming months; that if I had a penny or nickel for every short-term patient or long-term resident in a nursing home who told me they wished they had taken their blood pressure medication, followed the doctor’s prescribed treatment, adhered to a healthier eating regimen, I’d probably have a small fortune.
Make your conscious choices, healthy choices. My neighbor’s decision certainly does not reflect a conscious healthy choice. Though it’s not easy, you might want to consider looking at your choices? Are they choices contributing to your health and well-being or detracting from it? It could be thought of as a zero-sum game.
This involves rethinking your actions and a commitment to changing them. This is a feat not easily accomplished in our busy lives. As James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits, if you become only 1% better at anything every day it will account for a lot over time, no different than compound bank interest. Think of it as “the compound interest of self-improvement”.
Small changes are often undetectable. If you want to shed 20 pounds of your weight, it’s likely you won’t see a difference when you shed only one. But you will most likely begin to see a difference after losing 5-8 pounds. You see it only when you cross a “critical threshold”. It is a process that requires patience.
This AM, I received this in my mailbox from “A Note from the Universe” and it struck me how apropos it is to this topic.
“What good does it do knowing approximately where the treasure lies, yet never digging? Having a bank account with millions in it without ever writing a check? Or discovering the fountain of youth but never drinking a drop? You must live the truths you discover, break your old rules, defy logic, be the change.
In this case, the change is for yourself.
In conclusion, the path to successful positive aging is a mindset. Practice mindful longevity; Embrace a healthy aging attitude for yourself and towards others.
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