Aging isn’t just for old people. It’s something we all do, whether we like it or not. And many of us, witnessing our muddled brain, sagging skin, the dreaded chin whiskers, just don’t like it.
That’s because most people don’t see it the way Frank Lloyd Wright did.
“The longer I live,” this world-famous architect informed us, “the more beautiful life becomes.”
More mysterious, too.
“The secret to staying young,” Lucille Ball once revealed, “is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.”
My Nine Rules
There must be 10 gazillion books on the subject of healthy aging. It’s a multibillion dollar industry that’ll never die, even though every one of us will. That’s why it’s a compelling subject for all ages,
Instead of an overview, I’m going out on a limb to offer a point-of-view, my current Nine Rules – ideas? theories? self-delusions? – for Healthy Aging based on a lifetime of reading, writing, learning, exploring and, oh, yeah, growing older.
Each rule could be a day’s discussion or an 8-week online course. Forget that. The clock is ticking, space is limited, and I want to keep it simple. In fact, keeping it simple is the 10th rule.
The order is random, much like life. No. 1 is not more important than number nine, unless it is to you:
1. Expect Success
Aging is not a disease. It’s part of the natural flow of life. So embrace the positives about aging – wisdom and freedom are two biggies – and let go of the negative. People with positive perceptions of aging live seven years longer than people with negative perceptions. (Fact!) Not just longer, but happier, more meaningful lives!
2. Exercise Mind & Body
This is the key. Stick it in your door. To age gracefully, stay active. It’s a must. Move it or it disappears. Walk, bike, swim, whatever you like. Strength train, too. If you decide to run with only one of my so-called rules, make it this one.
3. Nourish Your Body
To age well, you have to eat well. That means real food, clean food, yummy food in amounts that don’t make you sick or obese. The drama of dieting is over the day you give up processed foods, fake foods, high-in-sugar foods and let the healthiest part of you prepare and eat food that nourishes your body in a way that hot dogs and Pop-Tarts never will.
4. Accept What is
Strive to accept your life as it unfolds, without being angry or bitter, or feeling victimized. At the same time, fight hard to live the best, most balanced life possible. Don’t dwell in the past or obsess about the future. Live in the moment, and love the kind, compassionate person you are.
5. Rely on Yourself
Self-care is the best care. Seek the finest medical care, but beware of over treatment. Be smart about early detection and prevention, but avoid too much scrutiny. “What is a well person?” a doctor once asked his students. “A well person is a patient who hasn’t been completely worked up.”
6. Vent in Healthy Ways
Difficult things happen as you age. Sickness, pain, loss. You can’t avoid the stress but you can, you must, learn to deal with it in healthy ways. Yoga, qi gong, meditation, exist for that purpose.
7. Take Risks
If you want to feel vital, fully alive as you age, keep taking risks. Keep challenging yourself. Keep testing your limits. “Go out on a limb,” Jimmy Carter said. “That’s where the fruit is.” When was the last time you went out on a limb?
8. Do Unto Others
The older and crankier you get, the more kindness and forgiveness have to come into play. Helping others adds more meaning and purpose to life. Love and be loved, and you will live longer and die more gracefully.
9. Understand Death and Dying
We all die. It’s not if, it’s when. So delve into it with humor, curiosity and spirit. And find a community that supports your choices and beliefs.
Now take the first letter for each rule — E-E-N-A-R-V-T-D-U — and spell out a word we both embrace. Life’s a great game, and ultimately, like aging, you have to unscramble it for yourself.
Marilynn Preston is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.