The Coach is In…
A Word About Aging
“Refire—an attitude of embracing the years ahead with enthusiasm rather than apathy. “ Morton Shaevitz.
I know something about aging. I am experiencing it first hand, and I have experienced it up close with two family members, one in assisted living (95), and one in a nursing home (70). Does this make me an expert? Hardly. But it does give me a perspective that is of value to me, and perhaps for you.
The reality is that all of us that are living ‘experience’ aging. Aging is subtle. It is normally a small companion for many years. And then, depending on genetics, choices, the cumulative effects of physical activity, an accident, or other forces, aging becomes a more ‘noticeable’ companion. We lose some physical capacity; our joints may ache, our eyesight diminishes, we injure ourselves for what seem to be ‘silly’ reasons, we forget names, we are not quite as quick mentally. We notice an increasing number of wrinkles, we gain weight. We lose more of the “it” factor.
For some of us, the ‘process’ of aging can be quite subtle. It can be many years before we are well aware that our ‘companion’ is present. For others, the signs of aging show up when they are quite young. My daughter has a congenital knee issue, which now has arthritis that showed up in her late 20’s. Having your body feel older than your chronological age is no fun.
Aging is an equal opportunity employer. It cares not about gender, race, or socio-economic condition. Whether it is through genetics, injury, accident, or the number of our choices where we have disrespected our body, the process of aging appears to be a steady and continuing companion, whenever it shows up. We were built to age. (As an optimist, that statement sounds terribly depressing to me, regardless of how true it is!)
How we treat this ‘unwanted guest’ has a major impact on what type of ‘guest’ it is. While genetics, accident, or injury will play a significant part in how/when we feel older than our age, what choices we make about how we care for ourselves (choices about what we eat and how much, what we drink and how much, exercise, rest, meaningful work, meaningful relationships) will also impact significantly the aging process, and our energy and vitality to engage life along the way. As you can expect, those choices will either have your unwanted guest show up early and stay longer, or be a guest that isn’t as intrusive, and willing to not show up as early.
My observation, over the past four years (and longer). is that while more of us are living longer, there is still a much smaller percentage that move into their 70’s, 80’s and beyond with a wonderful sense of vitality. Others, based on factors already cited, do not. They are the ones whose quality of life is reduced to what appears to be a “waiting to die” scenario. It can be heart breaking to watch if one of those people is a family member or friend.
While longevity is determined a lot by our genetics, and how we care for ourselves, the quality of our lives is often determined by attitude; as Keith Harrell says in his book by the same name, Attitude is Everything! We’ll explore attitude in another post, but for now I believe most of us have seen those people in their 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and beyond, that possess a wonderful zest for life. They seem to be able to look at life from a “world of abundance” perspective; others see life from a “world of scarcity” perspective. While we may think that most of the “world of abundance” people would be the ‘able bodied’ ones, whose bodies haven’t severely broken down, I have encountered numerous people in nursing homes whose bodies hardly work, yet, they have a light in their eye, and a love for life that seems almost unexplainable given the condition of their bodies.
As I continue my ‘companionship’ with aging, I am blessed to have chosen to take care of myself, and to carry a positive attitude. Both have served me well. Even though my ‘companion’ appears to be getting more noticeable, I continue to look at what I have and not what I don’t have. It seems to help.
I could ask, “How do you want to engage your aging process,” but I think the better question is, “How do you want to engage your life?”
To a better you…