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Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life

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Authored by Nancy Bowes, CFP®, Vice President, Investment and Financial Planning Officer

“Aging seems to be the only available way to live a long life.” Daniel-Francois-Esprit Auber, French composer 1782-1871

In Rochester, NY, Lifespan and St. John Fisher College offer a non-credit certificate program in gerontology with the goal of producing professionals who truly understand and respect older adults. As a student in the program, it is my mission to dispel the myths of getting old.

Let’s start with physiological aspects of aging. I’d like to eradicate our notion that getting “old” is something to be dreaded. First we need to differentiate between “Disease” and “Aging” because they are NOT synonymous.

Aging equals change, not frailty. It is a process that begins at conception and continues throughout our lives with a series of small changes that end at death. We should not view old age as a “big” change, it really isn’t. You’ve been steadily working toward this goal since before you were born. Embrace it! “Successful aging” means to grow old with no disease. Most of us are not aware that between the ages of 25 and 75, healthy humans only lose 5-10% of their strength and mental capacity. Think of people you know in their 80’s who are still going strong and show no interest in slowing down. How so?

That’s where disease comes in. Arthritis, hypertension, cataracts, and diabetes are common diseases that, left untreated, can accelerate aging. Practicing wellness in your 50’s is crucial. It is possible to postpone disease, pushing off the clinical stage for years. So, rather than living 40 years with critical disease, you can shrink the clinical phase to 10 years starting at the age of 80 or so. It is our ability to bounce back that makes it possible. Being resilient is a trait most of us have as a child and carry with us into adulthood. We are unlikely to develop resilience in old age.

Another important element is stress. We need stress. It helps us get things done. We feel challenged under pressure and it leads to accomplishment. On the other hand, too much stress is deadly if it goes unaddressed and can make you blind to real issues happening. Be sensitive to that. Proactively dealing with stress will help you age well. Loss of memory is a common source of stress. It’s been proven 80% of memory issues are due to NOT paying attention. Paying attention is within your control and something you can practice to improve memory.

Keep in mind too, isolation is stressful and may cause permanent mental illness. Social media is no substitute for human contact.

Let’s turn to Mental Aerobics for a moment. Did you know the human brain is 78% water? Besides drinking lots of water, there are easy (fun) things we can do to boost our brain power.

  • Read a book upside down
  • Brush your teeth with the opposite hand
  • Take a different route home
  • Use your mouse with your opposite hand
  • Learn a new skill, like painting or woodworking, and master it

Healthy aging is a goal that is achievable. Mental games are great, but physical activity like walking every day has more influence in slowing dementia. Eat right, avoid white flour, sugar, and salt to reduce inflammation. Your body will thank you. Don’t forget to engage all your senses: sight, smell, taste and touch. They all have a direct connection to the brain. Finally, treat yourself to one piece of dark chocolate, savor it slowly and tune in to how it makes you feel. It will make you smile!

Posted by Kelly Hohman at 04/07/2017 12:04:54 PM 

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