Research continues to show a marked difference between the health of people who live life to the full and those who don’t. It’s said doctors can predict through their lifestyle which individuals will develop heart disease or other illnesses.
Now, as I’m approaching a time when I might experience one of those so called, “senior’s moments”, I find myself thinking more often about friends, colleagues and family who have left the career world and are focusing on the “third quarter” of their lives. What are they doing? How have they spent the many years following retirement? How do they maintain friendships? How do they maintain a positive attitude?
Staying in top form
I recently had an opportunity to visit a 90-year-old friend who had recently taken a nasty fall and was quite battered and bruised. But lo and behold, the day of my visit she was smartly dressed with makeup and hair coiffed just perfectly. In our discussion, she told me that her golden rule was to always dress as though she was going somewhere as this made her feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of pride. And believe me, although her outfit was simple, she was indeed an elegant lady.
In addition, her goal was to complete one crossword puzzle per day and to read several books per week in order to keep her mind sharp. These days books are her friends, as many of her close acquaintances have passed away. And of course, she keeps her family close by with photos on every wall as far as the eye can see. A very happy and active lady!
I often visit another lady, a 95-year-old blind elder who is an inspiration to anyone who feels sorry for themselves. This lady entered a university degree program at age 60 and graduated with a fine arts degree at age 65. Today, she attends a seniors program three times per week and, using a huge machine available through the CNIB, she is a voracious reader and she is a writer of stories. Although she can’t see television, she “watches” her favourite afternoon shows and keeps tabs on all the story characters.
Over a fresh cup of tea, she’ll tell you a lifetime of stories and will provide good advice on any of your life lessons. She too, keeps her family photos close by her side and appreciates the many visits from children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Always in motion
Another 90-year-old on my list of seniors visits has become a renowned puzzle expert as evidenced by a 2,000-piece puzzle I recently gave her that barely lasted a week. Imagine the keen eye for colour, shape and form that she must have as she “puzzles” away an afternoon. Yet she doesn’t stop there, as singing in a choir also takes up a lot of time as does visiting with friends and family. Family photos and mementos surround her.
Some of the younger “seniors” I encounter are so busy they can’t imagine how they had time for work. Some are very adventurous and have travelled far and wide while at the same time they have set up a Facebook page and keep everyone up to date on their travels. Others have changed their home location and are content to read, visit friends, and volunteer for a treasured helping agency. Still others have taken on the task of helping to look after grandchildren.
Yet, no matter the circumstance or the age of the folks I have visited lately, the one thing they have in common is a positive attitude, a positive sense of self esteem and a determination to stay active and connected. In fact, they seem to follow two sets of advice my mother once gave me; first, “you are only as old as you think!” and second, “make the best of what you have”.
Old maxims proven true
These timeless idioms are proving to be much more accurate than first thought. For instance, recent research has continued to show a marked difference between the health of those individuals who lived life to the fullest and those who didn’t.
In fact, it’s now being said that doctors can predict which individuals will go on to develop coronary heart disease or other symptoms of ill health.
Not only that, these predictions were equally strong when other factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and education were taken into account. You can read about this in Over-50s Who Enjoy Life More Live Longer, England Survey, appearing in Medical News Today, October 2012.
The loud and clear message here is that life expectancy can be extended by having a positive attitude such as “you are only as old as you think” and “making the best out of life”. A positive attitude is something we can each control and something we can each personally build and achieve. Let’s get at it!
Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group, a local human resource consulting firm. She is also an author, newspaper columnist and radio host. She can be reached at email@example.com.