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Joseph: Age is only a number

Posted: January 8, 2015 11:43 a.m.
Updated: January 9, 2015 1:00 a.m.

 

I wouldn’t have described myself as “ready” for the situation that had just occurred.

Quite frankly, the event threw my brain in to a chaotic tailspin. No, I did not win the lottery, my car odometer had not topped that mileage milestone of 200,000 miles, nor had my children woken up that morning and decided I was cool. In fact, what had happened was clearly an episode from the 49th season (of my life). I can say, without a doubt, it did not prove to be one of my favorite shows. The episode was filmed right in the middle of the check-out line at Walgreen’s like a scene from the movie “This is 40” or perhaps from the television show “The Middle.”

The clerk proceeded to ask me, “Ma’am, are you over 55?” I thought to myself, “Wow, does he really think I know how many ‘Balance Rewards’ points I have. Who knows that number?” I stood there with a blank look for what seemed an eternity. Again he asked, “Miss, are you over 55?” Hellooooo! The clerk was not asking for my “Balance Rewards” tally.

He wanted to know if I was over the age of 55 so he could give me the senior discount.

“Huh? What? Is this McDonald’s,” I thought. “Remain calm,” I said to myself. “Besides, I have a hat on and I’m overly tired.” Here’s where my pals, Laughter and Sarcasm, enter the scenario as grim reminders of the small detail that I am staring “five-oh” in the face. This is what I say to this: “Bring it.”

No worries. Fifty is the new 30 … something right? Isn’t life about how old we feel and not about the actual number of years? I have to agree with the former more positive of these two perceptions. And, according to a leading health journal, having a more optimistic view of aging can extend our years. The journal also listed walking, eating more fish, lifting weights, owning a pet, refraining from smoking, challenging your mind, spending time with friends, and helping others as definitive and proven youth-boosters, not busters. Top these potent habits with a record-high life expectancy and I believe we may be well on our way.

This past October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the life expectancy for Americans has stretched to 78.8 years. And sorry fellas, but females can plan on outliving males by 2.6 years. According to the report, a typical woman who makes it to age 65 can anticipate living to the age of 85.5 years. These gains are a result of small but steady decreases in Americans’ death rate. The overall rates fell because we are less likely to die from eight of the 10 leading causes.

The top killer, heart disease, became less lethal with a 1.8 percent decrease and for cancer, the No. 2 cause of death, the rate fell by 1.5 percent. See, you already feel younger hearing good news like this, don’t you? We know optimism can equal more years. More, the data is showing that we are not only living longer, but are reporting fewer symptoms of disease, have more energy, and show fewer impairment in everyday tasks such as walking than a generation ago.

Where we will see quality of life declines, however, is related to chronic, degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. And for the younger generations, declines will be seen when related to a sedentary lifestyle. Positive counteractions for these possible declines would be, as stated earlier, optimism and physical activity. In my words, let’s go down any decline kicking and fighting for as many years as possible. And why not? We are only old as we feel. And repeat. We are only old as we feel. At least, that’s what I am going with. We’re nowhere near that “ready to go” point in our lives. We can add life to our years and years to our life. It is possible.

Many of the things we consider as inevitable consequences of aging (diminished energy, physical strength and endurance, memory, and other cognitive abilities) can be significantly influenced by our perceptions and mind-set. While there has always been some truth to the saying: “you’re only as old as you feel,” there may also be veracity to “you’re as young as you think you are.” As we all grow older, feeling old is a state of mind more than a state of body.

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” --George Burns, who, by the way, lived to 100 years young.

 

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