We can easily slip (or decay) into a life that we do not want. We may not even know how it has happened. Like the saying goes, the life we counted on can “just slip away.”
Our health can deteriorate. Our mental state can become confused and dull. Our friends and family may get tired of helping us.
These are the dangers of a passive and sedentary life. And as we age, the dangers become more real.
The choice is ours – every day. Do we want to grow or decay?
I first came across this idea, of grow or decay, from a valuable book I read a few years ago. It is called Younger Next Year (2007). It was written by a man of retirement age, Chris Crowley and a physician/internist, Dr. Harry Lodge.
Together they put together a detailed, science-based program to become functionally younger each year and to live a life of “newfound vitality and pleasure.”
As they say on the book’s cover, Dr. Harry Lodge provides the science and Chris Crowley the motivation.
Crowley and Hodge make a critical distinction between aging and decay. They write, aging is inevitable, but it is biologically programmed to be a slow process. Most of what we call aging, and most of what we dread about getting older, is actually decay. We’re stuck with real aging, but decay is optional.
Aging can be a slow, minimal and surprisingly graceful process, they say. Even with our appearance, there is a huge difference between a great-looking, healthy older person and one who has let themselves go.
After years working as a general medical internist, Dr. Hodge had an epiphany. People often think, he says, that they will grow old and die. This is not the worst outcome.
The worst outcome is getting old and sick, or maybe even disabled, and still having many more years to live.
So let’s make our years count by getting stronger (and feeling younger). Here are a few ways to be more active.
Here is a clue to start. Look for activities that get your hearts pumping and activities that you look forward to doing.
Even better if they involve other people and centre around some type of learning and challenge or generous acts of creativity.
Some activities can be completely new, like joining Toastmasters and improving your public speaking. This will get your heart pumping for sure. I joined Toastmasters for a few years, a while back, and had a lot of fun. I was surrounded by very positive people that wanted to learn and help each other. Most cities have several groups, each with their own personality.
Engaging your mind does not have to involve new areas of interest. It can be just as stimulating to go deeper with the things that you already enjoy and love.
A good friend of mine is a lover of rock music. So he challenged himself by offering to give a talk on the British music invasion at a senior centre he belongs to.
He also spends his time going deep into ancestry records for both sides of his family. This is creative, stimulating and gives him great stories to share with friends and family.
You might think that activities drain us of energy. But when you are engaged in activities that interest and excite you, you gain energy.
For example, when you feel good helping others this can give you added energy. When you get excited by impressive sports achievements or are moved by a piece of music, you gain energy.
So you may be able to do more of a certain activity than you think, because the activity itself will help put some energy back in and give you more endurance – as well as excitement.
Sometimes in sports, it is the older players that end up scoring more goals. The younger ones may be skating or running faster, but they’re not always playing smarter – nor being more productive.
Age and experience matter. And they can be very useful to others.
One example I came across was someone who helped other seniors with their computer frustrations. Or consider a man who was lonely after his wife passed away and decided to help other people in his community with simple home repairs, at no charge to them. He became a big hit.
Coaching or mentoring younger people can also be very stimulating and rewarding. It can expose you to new and different ways of thinking, from a younger generation.
Chronic stress is not a healthy challenge, and it’s very bad for your health. It contributes to decay not growth.
A disorganized home or disorganized finances can be a big drain on your energy and on your health. This state of affairs does not stimulate you, does not energize you, it only wears you out, literally.
Here is the take home message from Crowley and Hodge.
“Everything you do physically, everything you eat, everything you think and feel, every emotion and experience changes your body and brain in physical ways… (You can make you) stronger, more agile, smarter and better able to take hard knocks.”
You may even be able to live longer and better.
Have you ever thought you spend too much time on the couch? Don’t you deserve a more interesting life? What is a simple step that you can take today? Do you consider your life one of growth or decay?
Tags Healthy Aging