Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Aging Well Is All About Attitude

My Mom 2015--Aging Well
Have you ever noticed that some people seem old before their time? The reason some appear to be elderly could be due to physical appearance—they have wrinkles, shuffle when they walk—or more obviously they have turned into a grumpy old person.

Then, there is my mom. She will be 89 next month but has apparently been dipping her toes in the fountain of youth. She is healthy, active, and beautiful. 

Attitude is a key factor in whether your twilight years are enjoyable and fruitful or just an excuse to check out from life early. You see people struggle with the concept of retirement. It takes less effort and risk to keep on working. It isn’t always people who need the money either—they are afraid of not having enough to do or tie their self-worth to their career.

I took early retirement. I loved my job and had worked hard to succeed, but deep inside, I knew it was “time.” I was ready to turn the page on a new chapter—or perhaps open a new book. I faced retirement with excitement and without any regrets.

Recently, after exchanging pleasantries, a Walmart checker said she was glad her day was almost over and she could go home. “I have to work another five years before I can retire. That is if my health holds out.”

I swiped my credit card and said, “My doctor said she was glad I retired while I was in good health and could enjoy it. She sees so many people wait until they can’t work anymore.”

Retirement has been kind to me. I love waking up when I want to—at least most of the time. I choose the path to walk most days, or the comfy chair to sit in and read a book, or the TV show to watch, or the social event to attend. Oh, sometimes living with a farmer means getting dragged into all kinds of projects. Guess that counts as physical exercise and saves on a gym membership.

In order to live, you must embrace life. If you live everyday letting other people bring you down, you find yourself marking time, instead of making the most of it. Each day is a blessing. We never know what tomorrow or the next hour might bring. We choose to live, or we choose to endure a living death.

As we age, we are prone to developing medical conditions. Some of these can be brought on by lifestyle, genetics, environment, or a combination of all three. Alzheimer’s is one of the most dreaded conditions for the elderly. It is not a normal part of aging, but aging is the number one risk factor.

Researchers found a link between being negative about old age and developing Alzheimer’s disease. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging conducted a thirty-year study on aging. Later in the study, they used scans to track the size of the participants’ hippocampus which is primarily associated with memory and spatial navigation. The people who began the study with a negative outlook on aging had greater size reduction of the hippocampus than their more positive counterparts. Autopsies found negative people had significantly more plaques and tangles, the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.

That’s good news for those of us who see the up-side of aging. We look forward to doing our own thing and taking advantage of those senior discounts. Who would have ever thought attitude could be so darned healthy?

It helps to put setbacks and failures in perspective. One thing is sure in life—even during the darkest hours, a lot of people in this world are facing greater hardships than I have ever known.

Hey, life is hard. It can be a lot harder for some than others, but giving up is not an option. It is heartening to see people who rise above adversity and take control of their own destiny.

It’s all about attitude. You’re only as old as your attitude lets you be. If you don't believe me, talk to my mom!
Copyright © December 2015 by L.S. Fisher

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