‘Aging well, living well’ is a good slogan

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be an old woman—like my grandmother. Respected, fun-loving, laughing, and TALL.
A few years ago, I saw a family picture and my grandmother seemed almost short. I asked my uncle how tall Grandma was. He replied, “Five feet, three inches.”
But that revelation made no difference in my perception of my grandmother. I still see her as the regal “tall one.”
Because of my mindset, I can’t understand why some people don’t want to live to a ripe old age.
The 20th century gave us many gifts. The airplane and the automobile. Electricity and refrigeration. Running water and the computer. But none was as important as the gift of longevity.
In 1900, there were three million people age 65 or older—four percent of the total population of the United States. By the year 2000, there were 35 million people age 65 or older—almost 13 percent of the total population.
Now, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that one in five people will be age 65 or older in 2050, and the fastest-growing segment of the population is age 85 and older.
To some people, the idea of longer life is not something to celebrate. They may not have had good role models like my “tall” grandmother and are afraid of what those years will hold.
A recent study conducted by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey found that the main concerns about living longer are poor physical health, insufficient financial resources, and decreased mental function.
So what can we do to counter those fears and learn to make the most of our extra years?
Josefina Carbonell, assistant secretary for aging, helped answer that question during a recent speech to a group of centenarians.
Carbonell quoted actress Helen Hayes who said, “What becomes fragile when we age is not our bodies as much as our egos. The best time to take some daring steps is when we get older.”
So keep your sense of surprise and never give in to boredom, said Carbonell. Stay interested in life. And accept the notion that it’s never too late to change.
“My goal is to make sure that all older Americans and their families can make informed decisions about their life choices,” said Carbonell. “Choices that help people maintain and improve their health as they age.
“And most importantly, help older people stay at home and have care choices other than nursing home care.”
May is Older Americans Month and this year’s theme is “Aging Well, Living Well.”
Aging well and living well does not happen automatically. We’ve been given the gift of long life—now it’s up to us to develop the healthy, vibrant lifestyle to enjoy that gift.
Start with a base of healthy foods, exercise, and a good social network. Then follow Carbonell’s advice—add a little daring. Think outside the box. Try something new.
If you’re concerned about your health, start an additional exercise routine. If you’re worried about finances, look for a job. If you’re anxious about your mental function, take a challenging class.
And look forward to enjoying your gift of long life with vibrancy, joy, and a lively sense of surprise.
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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