Getting old isn’t easy

Ever since my 25th birthday, I have been fascinated with the process of aging and have tried to figure out what it takes to age well.
As I have mentioned in this column before, turning from 24 to 25 was traumatic for me.
All my life, I had been hampered by being “too young.” I was too young when I entered first grade three weeks after my fourth birthday. I was too young to hear Barbara and Pauline’s secrets in grade school. Too young to enter high school at age 11, and too young to graduate at 14.
One especially hurtful incident occurred toward the end of my first year in college when I was nominated to be the secretary of my Literary Society.
With trepidation I checked the bulletin board for the election results. Sadly, I had lost. I wanted that job so much that I could taste it. But, I had lost!
Why didn’t they choose me? I was hurt. Losing was bad enough. But to make things worse, there was an older student checking the results at the same time. And she turned to me and rudely said. “I didn’t vote for you. I thought you were too young.”
Fortunately, I can’t remember her name or how she looked. But I remember what she said as though it were yesterday.
It seemed unfair to me. That was the story of my life.
“Too young” for 24 years. And, then, overnight, I had to count my age in centuries rather than years.
I was one quarter of a century old.
I decided right then that I would not allow the world to change my label from “too young” to “too old” with nothing in between. So I took on the challenge of aging well.
Since my 25th birthday, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to age well. And here are a few of my learnings.
Flexibility is crucial. Life is change, and change requires flexibility. And the older you get the more difficult the changes you have to deal with. It’s important that you are able to bend without breaking.
You can’t have too many friends. Friends support you and you support them. Friends make life fun. But, sadly, we often lose important friends. Sometimes they move away; other times they die. This requires extreme flexibility, and making new friends is important. As you age, sometimes it’s good to cultivate younger friends also.
Exercise makes you young. It’s important that you take care of your heath, and exercise is one of the healthiest things you can do. Bicycle or play tennis. Walk or do water aerobics. Go to the exercise room and workout on the NuStep. Whatever works for you, but exercise!
Never laugh at ageist jokes. We laugh about getting old because we’re uncomfortable. Don’t give in to fear. Aging is real and should be respected. Aging is not a laughing matter.
Don’t rehearse old age. Never expect the worst. Be upbeat and positive. Enjoy every day. Make friends. Have fun. And, remember, life is short.
It’s true that getting old is not easy, but don’t let negative attitudes make it harder than it has to be. If you learn to ignore the calendar and the naysayers, you can stay young inside forever.
Copyright 2014.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist.
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