By: Simon Pogoreloff
Growing old is problematic. It is not just about how we feel, our genetic make-up or various components of individual fortitude. Everyone used to tell my mom she looked great, even into her nineties. My mom would look at them rather seriously and quip, “I wish I felt as good as I look”. Naturally we don’t want to begin thinking about our “aging” process at 90. Perhaps a good place to start, a benchmark by which to make considerations and concessions should be 65. This age demarcation seems appropriate for two reasons. First it is still the accepted retirement age and second if one is retired this gives you time to think about aging and health with greater impact.
Unfortunately, there is no fountain of youth. One of my most favorite words in the English language is entropy. Without trying to argue with a physicist an oversimplified definition of entropy is the natural decay of all things. There is no getting around the fact that the aging process is unavoidable. There are also very few if any miracles sos wishing thinking does not apply either. Reminiscing about your youth and what you were capable of should also be reserved for your memoirs and not a method to take care of yourself as you get older.
Beyond the obvious there is also the need to keep a happy, positive attitude. Grow old gracefully, with style and at a pace that makes you happy and satisfied.
Eat What You Want And What You Need
If you want to gain some wisdom and recognize that growing old can be a wonderful experience (none of us can escape) you would do well to spend some time with some old people. In addition to parents and aunts and uncles we all have friends and if we are lucky enough to have had these friends for a long time then they have relations too. The father of a very close friend is still alive now in his nineties. When probed about the secrets of longevity there is a good deal of speculation and some guesswork. But when you dig deeper you find a nice mix of moderation, indulgence, method, work ethic, mental as well as physical exercise and companionship. Another way of putting it comes from an internist of mine years ago. He simply said, “only dead fish go with the flow”.
Just because our metabolisms are slowing down does not mean that we cannot plan and work at making delicious meals. While it is critical to be mindful of being older and what we eat and how we move. To be told that we can no longer get away with certain indulgences is a bit antithetical and could be a source of regret. It is always easier to beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission. We just have to be mindful of the balance needed if we do indulge. If you have made it to the autumn years you should have a very good idea of what your metabolism is like, your energy level (mental and physical), your sleep habits and your tolerance for many things. You have come this far so a long-term strategy should not be a problem for eating what you want as well as what you need.
Overdo On Occasion But Not As A Habit
Temptation and large food portions abound especially in American culture. It is no wonder many of us are overweight. Processed foods are also readily available and blend in beautifully with our it-is time-to-take-it-easy mentality. Home cooking is shadowed by convenience and eating out but it does not have to be. The older we get the more we should be able to appreciate simple things and pleasures. Cooking can be a joy without the drudgery. Recipes do not have to be overly complex. And if you do it yourself then portion sizes can be controlled. And what about leftovers. Aging means we should also have appreciation for economies of scale.
The adult human body averages 60% water. Does anything else need to be said.
Maintain “Comfortable” Body Weight
Clearly it is possible to be too fat. The same thing goes for being too thin. In our hearts we all know we come in different shapes and sizes. Ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph and probably infinite variations between. So what is maintaining proper body weight? And what about height? Clearly gravity plays a role in the ageing process. And now we have BMI (body mass index). Probably need to go back to some honest discussion with “truly” old people as in late octogenarian and nonagenarians. Clearly, they are pretty comfortable with themselves at this point in their lives. In many cases they have chronic conditions but not necessarily acute. Long, long ago was the consideration for easy weight loss in their 20s and 30s. The big four-oh came and went and so did a few more decades. Finally, they are at a point where they understand the natural order of things and the need for bigger clothes. Somehow, they made it from 50 to 60 to 70 and are now officially old by any designation. They did it on their own terms and did not succumb to the inevitable.
The journey is not as tough as we think. Time is our companion, not our enemy. Weight loss and gain needs to be tempered with moderation and expectation. Proper nutrition, sleep, rest, mental stimulation and physical exercise are no longer hard fought goals but essential components of the retired, “leisure” lifestyle. You have always possessed the key to your life. The door it opens in the autumn years is measured by consistency and mindfulness
It is no secret that muscle mass decreases with age. This also effects your metabolism in a number of ways. If the engine is not running as fast it does not burn as much energy. In the autumn years regular exercise should include some resistance training. None of this needs to be difficult, super strenuous or taxing. Consistency and mindfulness are key. If you are not as active as you should be you probably know it. Every doctor in my knowledge back has said the best single thing you can do for exercise is to take a walk.
You do not need to go to the gym to take a walk. You do not need to go there for resistance training either. You can start with squeezing a ball or placing a bath towel around your foot holding it with your hands and pressing your leg out from your arms. These activities have many suggested benefits: improved sleep, cardiovascular health, mood enhancement and metabolic considerations.
Age is but a number. How you choose to consciously and physically live your life can help you age better.