Growing old is a gift

As my dad turns 90 (yesterday was his birthday), I would like to revisit an article I wrote a year ago.

As part of his birthday celebration, I was asked to make a speech, and I have been fortunate to make one every five years for the past 15 years. But as I reflected on what I was going to say this time, I realized that I am now closer to the age my father was when he first celebrated a milestone birthday on his 50th birthday.

They say that over a certain age, you are considered “over-the-hill” and past your prime. It’s as if you have already reached your fullest potential and you go downhill from there. My father once said that he does not view his older years as heading downhill, but instead continues to move on and up, and he can look back down on all that he has experienced and accomplished.

Having a positive mindset like this can keep the mind and spirit young. Age is just a number, after all. Not everyone ages at the same rate. Many persons above 60 years old are still very active and instead of fighting aging, they embrace it.

PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF PEXELS/EDUCARVALHO, MIKHAIL NILOV GROWING old is a gift not afforded to many.

Growing old is usually associated with a decline in appearance, being less active, body aches and pains, and the onset of health problems, doctor visits and taking medications. There are ways, however, to age gracefully.

1. Get regular check-ups. Identifying and treating health problems early reduces the risk of complications later in life. You should see you doctor at least once a year, and more frequently as advised, depending on your condition. Get age-appropriate screening for cancer, such as at 45 years old for breast cancer and colon cancer, or earlier if you have strong family history.

2. Laugh every day. Patients over the age of 65 who look and act so much younger than they are all have one thing in common — a positive attitude towards aging.

3. Connect with other people. It can help to remain social and to engage in meaningful activities and relationships. Thankfully the internet and social media have made it easier to stay in touch despite the pandemic and long distances.

4. Keep moving. We should all try to be active most days of the week — every little bit helps, at any age. It’s really never too late to start exercising. Just check with your doctor before starting anything more strenuous.

5. Rest and meditate. After years of working, you can now enjoy the fruits of your labors. It can also mean having too much time on your hands. Use this time to get meaningful sleep and much needed rest.

6. Remember the past. Reminiscing and reconnecting with your youth can also improve your mental health and well-being. Creating a family tree, photo albums or penning a memoir can also be therapeutic, and is something that can be cherished by your family.

7. Make new memories. You’re never too old to learn something new. This can keep the brain sharp, and you now have the time to pick up a new hobby or rediscover an old one like a musical instrument you haven’t picked up in years.

8. Embrace your appearance. Not to say we should let ourselves and not keep up with proper grooming and dressing, but a few laugh lines and or a wrinkle or two are not the end of the world.  They tell our story.

9. Share your knowledge. Getting older is also seen as a resource, and knowledge and experience are revered in many cultures. Indeed, with age comes change but also experience, discernment and wisdom that needs to be passed down to younger generations.

10. Do not be afraid. Yes, we are all growing older, every single minute, every single day. We cannot turn back time.

What we should realize though is that growing old is a gift not afforded to many. If you are healthy, or have recovered from illness, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. And as you count the years, remember what matters — remaining optimistic, staying active, and continuing to find meaning later in life.


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