‘Aging 101’ needed

Our television set is always tuned to the weather channel. We check the weather with our first cup of coffee in the morning and before we go to bed, and sometimes in between.
We’re glued to the weather channel when the spring storms threaten, checking the progress of a tornado or a thunderstorm heading our way.
We check the snows that pile up in Buffalo and upstate New York, where my cousins live.
So I was very interested when the weather channel had a program entitled “Weather 101.” A very basic course.
There are lots of introductory books and courses that play on the “101” theme. “Racism 101.” “Spelling 101.” “Music Publishing 101.” “Car Buying 101.” “Relationships 101.” “Weddings 101.” “Grammar 101.” “French 101.” “Wealth 101.” “College Slang 101.”
So how about a course on “Aging 101”? A course that would focus on the basics of aging well. The nuts and bolts of aging.
The first thing the teacher would do is define aging. Somehow, we always characterize ourselves by our chronological age (i.e., I’ll be 64 on my next birthday or I reached 90 on my last birthday).
But, unfortunately, how many birthdays you have celebrated tells almost nothing about your real age. Your real age is determined by your physical fitness, your mental fitness, and your youthful attitude.
Different teachers of “Aging 101” would focus on different things in the course, but there surely would be some common elements. And one of those common elements would be the supreme importance of exercise.
In their book “Aging Well–The Complete Guide to Physical and Emotional Health,” doctors Jeanne Wei and Sue Levkoff cite what Charles Dickens had to say about exercise 200 years ago.
“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen our days is to walk. . . . [We] know of certain ancients . . . who have staved off infirmities by earnest walking—hale fellows, close up on 90, but brisk as boys.”
Wei and Levkoff say that if we don’t get some form of exercise as we age, “We will lose strength, stamina, and eventually our physical independence.” So if you want to stay youthful, you must take Dickens’ advice literally.
Mortimer Collins, another peer of Dickens, had this to say: “The true way to render age vigorous is to prolong the youth of the mind.”
And staying involved is the way to exercise your brain, say the authors of “Aging Well.” Volunteer, work at a paid job, take a class, read a book, learn to use a computer.
Mental exercise is as important as physical exercise.
Always remember, a good attitude will make you feel young. Being old is no different than being young. You have to take charge of your life.
Don’t dwell on your illnesses or infirmities. Instead, have lots of fun with your friends.
And after completing “Aging 101,” become a teacher. When you’ve reached this side of 60 successfully, you know what it takes to age well. Share that wisdom with your peers and especially with those who will follow–your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren.
Through education and shared wisdom, you can help defeat stereotypes about aging—and empower yourself and others to live better longer.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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