Fred, the oldest known goldfish, lived to forty-one years of age. It is a mystery how he survived so long. Unlike Fred, we humans can have a full and vibrant life if we keep breathing outside the fish bowl. That requires us to seize our days, as we age. Yes, join me in growing old, healthy and playful.
Research of Aging
Even our government encourages us oldies but goodies! The Public Health Agency of Canada provides reams of facts and information about aging.” Their report is called The Health and Well-Being of Canadian Seniors.
The report indicates that as we age we are wise to become mindful of our physical, mental, emotional and social well-being. The report tells us:
44% of seniors perceived their health to be excellent or very good . . . 37% of seniors reported they had taken some action to improve their health, such as increasing their level of physical activity (71%), losing weight (21%) or changing their eating habits.”
What about the 56% of seniors who did not report excellent or very good health? Regrettably, I am one of those in this higher statistic. That is the bad news. But wait! I will get to the good news!
Proof We Are OLDER!
The Bad News: Growing older is inevitable. A series of events have woken me up to the fact that I am a senior citizen. This year I celebrate my seventieth birthday. Our granddaughter will make me a great-grandma for the second time! I attend more funerals. I have high blood pressure and a blood clot. I had eye surgery. Yes, I visit the doctor and the hospital more often. I have hearing issues. “What did you say? What did he say? What’s that ruckus?” Oh! And my hubby’s prostate cancer is ever present. None of us plan to have these senior moments! The report also tells us:
Seventy percent of all age-related disease is related to lifestyle choices.”
The Good News: We can choose to have a whoop up of a birthday party. Bring on the chili, buns, and fun!
Let the grand-kids, great grand-kids or the neighbor’s kids, help bring out your giggle. Use every funeral to remember what is important—family, friends, community, and love. We can get state-of-the-art hearing aids. We can up our physical activity. Ride your bike, attend a yoga class, take up a sport or simply walk more.
Make a joke about the details of your aches and pains. We can bring cheer to one another. For example, have a little fun when you make a hospital visit. Wear Groucho Marx glasses!
How to Get Playful
Adopt a Cause or Find a Purpose
In his senior years, Bill Saviak co-founded Teens of Distinction and began a program under the umbrella of Inn from the Cold. When asked how he manages all this Bill said, “I don’t think of myself as a senior. I am still a kid somehow. I feel joy and amusement in my life.”
Does Bill Saviak take on causes and hang around youth because he feels young? Or does he feel young because he maintains activities for which he has a passion? The latter is probably the answer.
I continue with my work of writing, speaking, counseling, mentoring and volunteering. Helping others energizes me, keeps me feeling playful and provides a sense of purpose.
Bill and I are validated by a 2010 study headed by Professor Timothy Smith of Brigham Young University. Here is Smith’s conclusion: Seniors actively involved with friends, family and community lived three to seven years longer than those without connections.
Take a Fun Risk
When Margo Lee was eighty years old, she was still ice-skating, bowling and dancing with her New Zealand Long Poi balls. She entertained other seniors residing in nursing homes. At the age of eighty–one, she won the Mike in the Stone, Cheers Project award for a stand-up comic of the year. She offers the following advice: “Do what bubbles up in the moment. Smile! Laughter is the best medicine when you feel down. Never give up trying something new. Do not stay in your comfort zone. Always try something new. Choose your songs carefully.”
Go back to university, write your memoir, travel, or bungee jump. What have you got to lose other than your spare change?
Delve Into Your Passion
Gardening kept my Mom feeling lively. After rising to the edge of her bed, she would strategically place pads between each of her bony toes and under the arches of her fallen feet. She would wrap a tensor bandage around her right leg. Then she would wiggle into her girdle, pull on her wrist supports and strap on her magnetic back brace. She would put on the rest of her clothes, place inserts into her shoes, wash her face, and pop in her teeth.
She finished with a smear of fuchsia lipstick, a pair of coordinating earrings and protective sunglasses. Wait! She added a practical but decorated with fake flowers sunhat. Whew! She was ready to head to the garden.
Her garden had a ceramic bunny village nestled under one bush while a yo-yo hung from another. When asked about one species in her flower bed, she said, “I called it ‘stolen’.” She secretly broke a piece of it off at the local park, put it in water and it sprouted.
What is your passion? What energizes you? What would get you out of bed early?
Share Humorous Stories
One summer, Mom reported to her neighbors that she had experienced right in her garden an incident of sexual harassment.
While kneeling down to clean her ornamental pond a frog jumped. She reported, “He was less than an inch from landing in my bra!”
One evening Mom had an uncomfortable feeling. She imagined she was supposed to be somewhere other than home. The next morning her friend Peggy called saying that she had invited someone for dinner but the guest did not arrive. Peggy felt embarrassed that she could not remember who she had invited. Mom responded with, “Do you suppose it was me?”
Surprise yourself and others by sharing embarrassing moments. The first to laugh wins!
Isolation creates significant problems for seniors. We need others for physical touch, to keep our minds active and to be seen and heard. Mom belonged to a book club for years and in that setting, she had her clearest and most articulate opinions.
Social activity can range from volunteering to time with family. Get out and join in!
As my ninety-something old neighbor and friend Izora Frazer said, “Aging isn’t for sissies or the humorless.” Life is too short to give in to the myths of aging. Rather, we can choose to grow old, healthy as possible, and playful.