October 9, 2013

How to Age Gracefully.

Women are bearing the brunt of what it’s like to live in a man’s world.

What struck me as incredibly pertinent in the aging process was best exhibited by a very elderly man walking in the bright sunshine this morning, cane in hand, looking up at a tree with birds singing loudly, and seemingly pondering that moment.

We exchanged smiles and “good mornings” and went about our merry way; me walking faster, him walking at his leisurely pace.

I thought about this when I returned home.

Something about that old man, I couldn’t get out of my mind. I went about my usual ritualistic morning, and there was a smile on my face that couldn’t be wiped off.

I just turned another year older about a week ago.

I’m now over middle age. There have been studies recently showing women live longer than men; simply because our stress levels have been lower, we have more body fat to sustain us and we are more equipped to handle emotional turmoil.

Well, a newer study has been released that women may not live as long as the researchers had hoped.

We have entered the work force. We are taking on more prominent roles in society. We are delving deeper into our emotional realms and learning how to handle the big stressors (divorce, moving, entrepreneurship and role playing).

We are now matching men more and more in every facet of life, and what comes along with that is accelerated aging. Women are bearing the brunt of what it’s like to live in a man’s world. I even dread the thought of stereotyping here, but we weren’t exactly raised to take on as much as we are choosing, nor are we truly ready to jump into the pools that have been bestowed upon us.

Men are also learning how to keep up with their female counterparts.

Whether in love partnerships or business relationships, men have a tendency to squirm a bit with a strong and capable female. Their stress alone is based on having to live up to what society has put upon them over the decades. Men are the hunter and gatherers, and this alone creates some heavy stress on their brains and bodies. Men also are becoming more vulnerable and open and emotionally-connected. If that doesn’t cause premature aging in the species, then I don’t know what will.

It is fairly evident when noticing the gray hairs that each president accumulates over the course of their four to eight year term in office. Every president in our history becomes gray and aged over the course of the role he has chosen to lead our country into every possible scenario.

That’s stress happening right before our eyes.

If you haven’t seen a friend in a very long time, you know she or he has gone through some stressful life changes: chances are their faces and bodies will show every nuance of this fact. What we present to the world can’t be hidden or masked behind big dark sunglasses, fake smiles or an overly eager “hello.”

Aging gracefully is much more than that. It is a true way to live and breathe and accept. It happens to everyone. If we fight it, no doubt it will catch up with us.

My grandmother lived to be the ripe old age of 96 years. Her mother lived to be 103 years old. I have some excellent genetics in my family that I am more than grateful for at this mid-century time in my life. Sometimes, genetics is all we need to understand how the aging process can take us well into our advanced years.

I believe that the following list of thoughts will help with the aging gracefully process. (If anything, it gives the 20 to 30-year-olds something to consider when acting in ways that could catch up to them, later in life.)

1. Movement.

Any action, whether you are walking for long periods of time in your favorite spots, stretching at the end of the day, participating in planned aerobic or strength classes or busying yourself around the house, movement is essential to life.

We sit too much. We watch too much T.V. We drive too much. We are getting lazier. Movement used to be natural and never planned.

Now, we have to carve out time in each day to just move. Sad, but true, which leads me to my next point….

Photo: jenschapter3 on Flickr.

2. Get outside and play!

Because we have become a nation of vitamin-junkies, our Vitamin D levels are severely low.

And, we over-sunscreen ourselves due to so much fear of Mother Nature and her beautiful sunshine.

If you go outside and play, of course you satisfy the movement factor, but you also receive the most bountiful forms of Vitamin D. We need more play. We need to act more like children and be free and uninhibited, and we need to have more fun.

The outdoor offerings are the best way to age gracefully and naturally. Turn off the T.V.

3. Eat healthy and nutritious foods.

Why we haven’t all jumped on this band wagon completely baffles me, with all the studies out on GMO’s, junk food, heavily-laden animal protein diets, processed products and whatnot-.

The European and Latin American countries are leaps and bounds ahead of us when it comes to healthy and nutritious eating.

Why? Because they keep it simple and real, and aren’t so involved in the corporate greed machine. They have healthy upbringings, families who cook together, and place an emphasis on food and how it impacts their children. I know this fact from my own Peruvian mother, who prided herself on cooking with the best quality ingredients while we were growing up. It has stayed with me well into my 50’s. Thanks mom.

Just eat healthy and not too much. Plain and simple.

4. Use your brain.

I was a crossword puzzle freak for so many years. I still manage to pick up a puzzle every now and again and put my brain to the test. Using your noggin is the best insurance on aging gracefully.

Read. Write. Do puzzles. Play word games. Research things. Talk about your feelings where your brain has to think about the emotional response.

All of it pertains to brain health. You might even want to eat more blueberries and pop a Gingko herb every now and again to ensure that you are firing on all cylinders.

5. Have a hobby or a passion.

If you love to garden, play music, write poems, paint, work on cars, whatever it is, a hobby of some sort will not only keep your brain alive and happy, but it will resonate with your heart and soul. Your moments of zen are wrapped up in hobbies and passions. This will foster stress release and aging with a purpose.

6. Get together with friends and family often.

There is no doubt that healthy social connections are the root of aging with grace. Laughing and heart-centered interactions with your nearest and dearest will take years off your life. Even if they are living at a distance, make the time for togetherness with those people in your life who matter the most.

7. Stillness and quiet reflection.

Maybe because I’m more of an introvert, I find that everyday moments of peace and tranquility bring my overall contentment level to higher degrees of happiness, and lowered stress levels.

This alone has helped to keep my wrinkles and gray hairs to a minimum. However you need to take that moment to be still and reflect (whether on memories of days gone by, or pondering your own growth and evolution), use this time as your own. It is incredibly important.

8. Be a good partner.

Not just having a good partner, but being a good partner. If you notice older couples well into their 30th year of marriage, they have weathered the ups and downs by understanding who each other is, respecting each other, being considerate and spending time together in love and life.

Being a good partner means you have to look at yourself and what you bring to the relationship. Leave it up to your partner to look at themselves as well. It is not your job to control, possess, or demand. Just be yourself and show up. Every damn day.

The admiration and respect I have for those who age gracefully far supersedes any reality show that tries to depict this fact.

I like to observe the real thing, live and in person. I also aspire to live it in my everyday moments. Each time I look in the mirror and see myself getting another year older, I take a deep breath, pluck a few gray hairs from my head, stroke my facial skin closely with glasses, and have such gratitude that I’m not taking myself too seriously.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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