Over Memorial Day weekend, many of us catch up with family and friends. Invariably, we hear of (or meet up with) people who are in their supposedly “old” age, but who have enough energy and strength still to work, keep active, and engage in intriguing and inspiring conversations. I think of my 70-something friend who continues to work as an actress, my nearly 90 relative who still drives around town and mows his own lawn, and the 107-year old military veteran who still sits on his front porch each day to greet the world.
There have been studies of what makes for a “golden” retirement, and what might help promote productive longevity. Of course, not everything is applicable to each one of us, but from all the research, conversations, and observations, I’ve gleaned a few things:
1) Many of the top leading causes of death or poor health in later years can be attributed to the choices we make along the way. For example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is directly attributable to smoking. Heart disease can have genetic components in some cases, but a poor diet, smoking, and/or lack of exercise can contribute to it significantly. Diabetes can cause very debilitating health issues, as can obesity. Want to minimize the risk? Don’t engage in risky behavior.
2) The most active people I know, who are older, have continued to either work or put their heart into volunteer pursuits or hobbies. They are very curious about the world around them, even if that world has narrowed over the years. And, they reach out to others as others reach out to them. They continue to “exercise the brain,” and they nurture their spirits as well as their physical well-being.
3) Those who seem happiest to me (again, of course, all of this is subjective), are not likely to say, “I’m too old to…” but rather, “I’ll find a way.” This is not only encouraging, but inspiring, and has spawned a host of gizmos and gadgets to help older people do just what it is they wish to do. No doubt there will be more in the years to come – just in time for the rest of us who are not yet quite in their age range.
4) Taking stock of one’s life as the years go by is important and natural. But dwelling on the past or fixating on “the end” can certainly take away from pleasure and purpose now. Just as in # 2 above, engaging in today, with all that God gives, is a wonderful way to affirm that life is not over at any age – and that each life, no matter how long lived on earth, is precious, worth while, and worthy of respect.
To be sure, the body ages, and sometimes creaks and cracks and infirmity can be limiting. But by living grace-fully now, a better older age is more possible.
Blessings for the day,