“You look great for your age!” I’ve received this compliment as I’ve been aging through the decades and now, finally at age 76, I’m asking myself what does this really mean?
Is the compliment a disqualifier? We all have ideas of what we think a certain age should look like. We’ve looked at older people around us, watched how they behaved and what was important to them. Did they have wrinkles they’ve tried covering up, dyed their hair or even dressed fashionably?
These observations, plus what we’ve seen in the media, have formed the basis for our own thoughts about what the aging process should look like. We either liked what we saw or made declarations about not looking like that as we got older. And then we went about growing up and aging.
I’m aging – what can I do about it?
Like some things, aging is inevitable, but how we approach aging across the decades is really all up to us. Imagine what your future would be like if you’re someone who believes that it’s all downhill after 40.
Dr Christine Northrup, a renowned OB/GYN, states what you believe changes your biology. It’s an interesting point of view that takes our absorption of the information in literature, our inspirations and aspirations, the psychology of our attitude toward everything and anything one step further.
Our attitude physically impacts our biology. In her book, ‘Goddesses Never Age’, she states that our beliefs are far more powerful than we may have realized; it’s what we think — what’s in our brains — that has the greatest impact on our aging. Most of us learned that our genes affect our fate, however, Dr. Northrup proposes the opposite — our beliefs affect our fate.
Let’s look at what’s meant when we say, “I’m aging”. It can mean we’re all done with hot flashes, we need less sleep, our memory loss is on the rise, our energy is declining, we have more aches and pains to complain about, the rain keeps us home, our wrinkles are showing up and we might not feel ‘healthy’. It can be any number of things.
Being healthy, staying healthy
Our health is what we tend to interpret as being in decline and most of us say being healthy is our number one priority. Now “being healthy” is an interesting phrase because the first thought that comes to most minds is our weight, alongside whether we exercise enough and whether our nutrition is optimal. This is hardly surprising as health is a billion-dollar industry providing products all geared towards being healthy.
On a personal note, I’m overweight, not into exercise and rather sedentary. I’m nutritionally aware but not an abstainer from evening ice cream, good bread in a restaurant or chips at a party. And my blood work tells me I’m healthy.
Now those of you with expert knowledge in this area are bound to think, “but you are only 76 and if you don’t address these areas, you might not be so healthy in your 80’s & 90’s.” I absolutely have to agree, based on all I know and read. I probably shouldn’t be so cavalier.
I use myself as an example rather than recite facts and figures because I am much like many an average woman. I am a retired career counselor, now a jewelry designer. I raised a family and suddenly woke up to age 76 without having been present to how I got here. I wasn’t a woman who paid attention to her skin (fortunately, I did not have acne nor many wrinkles, although I do have freckles). I like to look in the mirror and see my familiar brown curls, so I hide the gray, and I have always been blessed with a high amount of energy.
But I’m no fool and since I started writing the series on ‘Aging Gracefully’, I decided to be more conscious and present to my process of aging.
Given this is something I did not do all along, it is somewhat challenging. Aging is a gradual process and so much depends on the areas of our bodies we wish to pay attention to. For some women, skin creams and cosmetic surgery is the key and they assume their heart will stay healthy. For others, having strong bones, good teeth and gums, having sex well on in years, staying sharp, getting 7-8 hours sleep and being able to run a race are all important variables.
There are definite differences and expectations as each decade passes us by. An excellent source of information is AARP . I remember hesitating to apply and even thought, “I won’t be thought of as a young chick anymore”. Additionally, Google can lead to extensive information on health, exercise, fitness, nutrition from experts in each field.
10 things you can take control of as you age
- Skin: it’s unlikely you’ll have an acne breakout, but things do happen under the skin, like loss of muscle and elasticity that causes wrinkles. Maybe in our sixties blood vessels start to show, but they can be laser zapped. Botox treatments are widely being used to reduce wrinkles. Increased intake of water can prevent some of this.
- Senses: our vision and hearing can be impacted, but glasses, laser surgery and hearing aids can address this.
- Metabolism: it slows down and changes in our diet and exercise are generally needed. Taking the proper supplements, eating the right diet for our bodies can support our metabolism and overall health.
- Bones: they get weaker because our cells are not regenerating, but taking calcium supplements is generally a good idea to protect against breaks. Exercise can also strengthen our bones.
- Heart: this is where exercise has the greatest impact. Because I have been sedentary, in addition to a yearly cardio stress test, my doctor had me undergo an angioplasty which I passed with relief. Being present to what we eat makes a difference in protecting our heart.
- Sex Life: maybe your underwear is chosen more for comfort than foreplay, but indulge for as long as you can and as much as you can.
- Immune system: it’s generally recommended we get flu shots, pneumonia and now Shingles shots as prevention and protection.
- Bathroom trips: they are bound to become more frequent, especially if our water intake has increased. Sometimes a mini-pad for leakage protection might be in order, especially if you anticipate sneezing or belly laughing.
- Staying Sharp: a no-brainer as far as I am concerned. Keep reading and learning; indulge in hobbies, interests, puzzles, discussion groups, socializing and so much more.
- Being Happy: life has ups and downs. You can’t avoid them. And it might sound pithy but being happy is a declaration — a state of mind. It’s something we choose to be as opposed to a reaction to our circumstances. This is the attitude of life that we all know so much about. I look for humor daily. Grab a chuckle a day. This line caught my eye and gave me a laugh of recognition, “my push up bra gives me creasage, not cleavage”. Look for laughter in the small things.
We can do a lot to help ourselves manage the aging process and to make life a little easier. A humorous phrase that caught my eye in an article for the over 50s is, “no matter how youthful our appearance there is no such thing as turning back the clock. Benjamin Button is a fictional character”.
I like to think we should plan on living longer and it is up to each one of us to choose our lifestyle and the areas we want to focus on. Whether we take up yoga, a dance class or get into adult coloring books as an alternative to meditation, it is up to us.
I’m definitely not convinced we can halt the process completely by altering our state of mind, but I do think we need to take control and own our aging process by actively acknowledging the implications and taking decisive action.
I’d love to know your thoughts and what you do to take control of aging or do you believe that what will be will be and leave it up to fate?