5 Ways to Make the Most of the Advantages of a Long Life
Being blessed with the gift of long life has its advantages: you get to watch your grandkids grow, you have the joy of more sunrises and sunsets. You may even explore hobbies you never had time for.
And then there are the intangible advantages. I’ve found that I’m less inclined to stress out if I’m late for an appointment. I’m more inclined to pick up my cell phone and let them know I’ll be a little delayed. Whew! Less stress. I find I laugh more, especially at my own foibles.
The other day, when patting me on the back, a young friend exclaimed, “Oh, I heard a crunch! Are you all right?” I totally cracked up. I said, “Pretty much everything in my body creaks, crunches and cracks. I’m perfectly fine!”
If I live long enough, I figure I’ll end up like one of those skeletons in doctors’ offices with the bones simply strung together with wire.
Don’t Let Disadvantages Stop You
But there are disadvantages, too, as we all know. We must pay more attention to what we eat, lest our blood sugar and cholesterol levels suffer. We don’t always run as fast – or run at all – bend as readily, much less get up with grace, or reach that top shelf without groaning.
Our tendency is to allow those disadvantages to stop us in our tracks. We can’t run as fast, so we don’t run at all. We don’t bend easily, so we give up anything that requires bending. We no longer try to reach that top shelf. We simply don’t use it anymore.
One of the biggest disadvantages we face as older adults is lack of balance. We fall more easily, and when we fall, we tend to hurt ourselves more. Our bones, being more brittle, don’t heal as easily.
We begin to fear falling, whereas in our younger days, falling was “no big deal.” With that fear, unfortunately, comes an increased likelihood of falling.
The Dutch have come up with a brilliant solution to falling and fear of falling – clinically tested courses in how to avoid falling, and, in the event of a fall, how to fall correctly.
The courses have had such good results that certain Dutch health insurance companies cover some of the cost, and the government rates the courses.
Dutch scientists recognized that denying the reality of older adults’ propensity to fall was harmful. Instead, they developed courses where seniors learn how to navigate obstacles such as loose tiles and angled ramps that are a challenge to weaker ankles.
In addition, they learn how to fall, starting with simply lowering themselves down onto mats, working their way up to learning how to actually fall onto the mats without hurting themselves.
Work with Your Changing Body – Not Against It
No matter how much we might rail against it, we change as we age. The brilliance of the Dutch approach is to work with the change – in this case, poorer balance – rather than ignore it, as in “Oh well, that’s life!”
When we embrace our changing bodies and personalities, our disadvantages – whatever they may be – don’t have to stop us from being our fullest self or doing what we love.
Be Inspired by Dame Gillian Lynne’s Exercise Video for Older Adults
Dame Gillian Lynne, at 90, is a prime example. Once upon a time, Dame Gillian was the acclaimed choreographer of such smash hits as Cats and Phantom of the Opera.
Meet an “AMAZING!” with a fervent belief in ‘move it or lose it’!
If DAME GILLIAN LYNNE, 90, acclaimed choreographer…
Since those glorious days, she acquired two metal hips and one metal foot, none of which have stopped her from being physically active.
Not only that, but at 88 she created an exercise video designed specifically for older adults. Her goal was to help them, whether they were raw beginners or seasoned athletes, emphasizing her firm belief that movement and exercise are critical to enjoyment of life.
Have Fun Like Alice Donahue and Granny and the Boys
On a lighter note, one of my favorite musicians is Alice Donahue, 84. With her white hair and glasses, she calls her funk fusion band, “Granny and The Boys.”
Meet an “AMAZING!” wowing them on the keyboard!
ALICE DONAHUE, 84, better known as “Granny” of “Granny and the Boys,”…
This represents a complete reversal from the usual Hollywood approach, which would de-emphasize her age as much as humanly possible. On the contrary, Donahue revels in her age, and from the size of the (mostly young!) crowd her band attracts on Sunday nights, so does her audience.
We are what we are at any age. Why not have fun with who you are now, find ways to do what you love with full acceptance of your current self, and have yourself a wonderful time?
How did you overcome an age-related physical issue? What recent physical accomplishments have you had that you didn’t think possible later in life? What advice would you give to others to keep their body in shape? Please share your tips below.
Dr. Noelle Nelson is a psychologist, consultant and speaker. She is passionate about personal growth and happiness. She’s authored over a dozen books including “Happy Healthy… Dead: Why What You Think You Know About Aging Is Wrong and How To Get It Right.” Please visit Noelle’s website.