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Posts Tagged ‘Anti-aging strategies’

Thanks for Making Me Laugh

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Some people just leave you feeling a lot better about how your day is going. They are usually not the ones urging you to stay the course when everything is going up in flames or down in smoke.  The folks who do the most good are light-hearted.  They are the people who make you laugh.

Certain people  can do this no matter what you talk to them about.  When I was managing natural gas distribution for a bunch of small towns in Iowa, I worked with a corporate Public Relations person who had this talent.  For those three years of my life, it seemed like some major thing went wrong at least once a week—and usually on Friday at 5:00 PM.  But even when we were working on how to handle things like grand larceny and onsite protests, this woman would manage to say something that made me laugh. I’ve had my radar tuned for these kind of people ever since.

The kind of friend I just described is priceless, no doubt.  But there are other ways people help you laugh.  The people who are willing to do silly or outrageous things with you are a blessing, too.  My siblings do this for me.  One brother and I spent months on The Nun-of-the-Month Club—a complicated practical joke that provided on-going “laughter therapy” that whole time.

Being silly can diffuse something potentially infuriating.  After a 20-year marriage that involved losing the argument about having a “real Christmas tree” every year ended, I was keen to honor my own preferences. But my kids were not available to celebrate Christmas until January 8 that year.  Even in the Pacific Northwest, trying to keep a real tree fire-safe that long seemed impossible.  I definitely didn’t want an artificial tree yet again.  The whole thing seemed unreasonable to me.

I was so close to exploding about it that I didn’t do anything at all—until a few days before Christmas.  Then I asked my brothers, who were both coming to dinner on Dec. 25, to help me build a tree out of odds and ends.  Bless them, they took my silliness seriously and brought supplies and ideas to add to what I’d come up with for the project.

And thus started one of my best Christmas memories ever.  My sister-in-law said we sounded like a bunch of little kids.  After the design and structural support phases were done–where we acted like intelligent adults, we attacked the challenge with the exuberance of five-year-olds.  We even put a name on the thing, using leftover mailbox letters that had been hiding in my garage. We had such a good time with the whole effort we almost forgot about Christmas dinner.

Sometimes, the angels who make you laugh are very young.  The first time I babysat my first granddaughter overnight, both her parents and I were a bit concerned about how it would go.  As my “secret weapon,” I’d brought along a bin of silly stuff (mostly hats) that I started collecting after reading Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet.  My pint-sized charge very carefully put sixteen strings of Mardi Gras beads around her neck and then donned a plastic Viking helmet from the bin.

Not only did our little Mardi Gras Viking Princess make me double over with laughter, the photo I texted to her anxious parents helped Mom and Dad relax and enjoy their getaway.  Sometimes it’s what a child says. Sometimes, it’s what she does.  Sometimes, it’s what  you do together,  But so often they are the perfect tonic for an otherwise hard day.

Yes, we are blessed when there are people in our lives who make us laugh.  But it’s about more than just having a special friend or a happy child that can get you guffawing.  It’s not just a case of having someone who helps you laugh.  We’d all be a lot better off if we could help others laugh, too.  It’s a great form of giving.

At one point in my life, I decided I needed to study humor.  I got a lot of books on it and started working through them methodically.  That proved absolutely lethal–I killed the very essence of “funny” by approaching it so rationally.  So let’s not get too serious about this.  Humor is delicate, highly situational, and personal.  Just stop fretting about everything and say—or do–what seems funny to you.  With that strategy, you can even make yourself laugh.

I did confirm one really important universal truth about this funny business at a writers’ conference a while back.  Jonathan Winters, one of the wackiest guys on TV at one point, was a surprise guest speaker at the humor workshop one day.  His advice:  Laugh with people not at them.  Laughing with people says “We’re in this together and we can handle it.”  Laughing at people says “I’m better than you—or him.”  That’s not humor; it’s meanness.

So that’s your homework for this week.  Laugh.  Then make someone else laugh.


I Miss My Stairs

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

You can become a blimp by accident. A recent move of mine confirms this.  The house I owned for the last eight years was two-stories and on a quarter acre.  Where I live now is single-story with very little yard. And lawn service for that!  If I don’t turn this around soon, I will be shopping for clothes at the tent store.

It was the right decision, and it’s a nice place.  But I miss my stairs.  My workroom was up, my kitchen down.  Bedroom up, TV and entertaining spaces down.  All day every day for 16 hours or more, those stairs were part of my life.  Between that and yard work (or on rare occasion shoveling the driveway), I got a good workout without ever needing to call it “exercise.” Now?  The most exercise I get without naming it as such is watering the potted plants on the front porch every other day.

Usually, I’m pretty good at anticipating things that are going to be difficult when I make a change.  I totally missed this one.  I’m accustomed to having my exercise hidden in my lifestyle.  Sure I can go to the gym and get on a stair-stepper, but that’s not who I am.  I’d much rather run up to check my calendar or down to take meat out of the freezer for dinner.  I’d rather lift bags of steer manure in the garden than free weights at some workout place.

Much as the move is right as part of a long term strategy, I’m not relishing the need to consciously create “exercise” for myself every day.  Now that I’m really looking at the situation though, I can see there’s more to this than “oh poor me.”

We’ve seen stories about older people who died after they were placed in senior housing after living in more physically demanding homes their whole lives.  Most of the stories I’ve heard assumed they died of homesickness.  Perhaps there’s more to it than that.

My new place was built as part of a 55+ community.  (Go ahead.  Point your fingers and laugh.  I said I would never do this.)  Everything is on one floor and “easily accessible.”  Outside of some extra shelving we added that I need to use a step ladder to access, I don’t even have to bend or reach very much.  That’s all by design—the perfect home for an “aging boomer.”

Are we right in assuming that as we age we should plan to do less physically?  Are we really doing ourselves the favor that builders and real estate agents claim we are with the “all on one floor” concept?  Is lawn service really a plus when we have the time and could still be doing that physical activity ourselves? Does it make any sense at all to give up stuff we could still do ourselves just because we are “getting older?”

My mom resisted getting a clothes dryer for decades. She didn’t want to lose the exercise and fresh air she got hanging clothes outside.  (In case you are envisioning this buxom farm wife, please note my mom was a willowy city girl with a degree in intellectual history.)  She was right on with this one, and I should have been paying better attention. Now I understand. I want my multi-purpose movement (exercise I don’t consciously have to plan) back.

I can still fix this.  Luckily, the move I just made is a temporary one.  I don’t own this house.  When we buy together a year or two down the road, I’ll be aware of this need.  For now, I can make an effort to get “exercise” into my daily routine and accept being a gym rat for the short term.

But far more often, this “less demanding” new environment is permanent.  How many of us are losing our vitality way before we need to by downsizing to places that are designed to take physical activity (aka “work”) out of our lives?

The challenge of doing those daily tasks may be part of what keeps us going.  My dad was diagnosed with heart disease in his 40’s.  Later in life, that included congestive heart failure. For virtually his entire adult life, he went up a full flight of stairs each night to take his shower.  When he died at age 85, he was still taking a daily walk, working on his writing every day, and fully engaged in his community.   Doesn’t that seem like a better way to do this?

We need to rethink this notion that less physical work is good for us as we get older.  Sure, we probably won’t be pitching hay or digging trenches.  But there’s middle ground between the two extremes where we would be much better off.  For me, that includes a flight of stairs.


New Magic Word…Flexible

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

When you get past 50, you need to pay more attention to what’s flexible. It can make your life a whole lot more pleasant in a surprisingly wide array of ways.

First, of course, is the need to keep your body flexible.  For me that means finding some new ways to challenge my muscles since I recently left behind the “automatic” exercise of navigating the stairs to a second floor and caring for a large, weed-magnetic garden.  I can do that with a yoga class–or maybe pilates or zumba.  And I’ve told my family I’ve available for free as a “garden wench.”

But there’s more to keep flexible than your back. Beware of calcification of your mindset. This became distressingly clear to me when I started assessing how well my transition to the “new place” was going. Without any real need to complain, I launched into an alarming mental litany of bitches. “This isn’t like it used to be.” “That isn’t like I had it at my old place.” Uh-oh.

My life works best when I keep it changing. New challenges, even if they are just how to fit the dresser in the bedroom and where to hang my favorite mirror, keep me from getting in too much of a rut. Time to do a better job of embracing them.

There’s flexibility I have just plain ignored claiming, too.  Music and movies have turned to stone in my world because technology has taken both in directions I have not yet gone. CD’s are still available, but the real action in the music world has moved beyond them.  If I learn to access my music online, I will have more selections and more ways to play it.  Viva flexibility!

Same deal with movies.  A few years back, if I missed something while it was in theaters, I could catch it by renting it at someplace like Blockbuster. Those “someplaces” are gone–replaced by Netflix and assorted streaming options. I’ve been standing at the side of the road as they all marched away without even waving at me.

Okay…find a yoga class, buy some music “the new way,” and sign up for Netflix. Is there more?

Well, yes. I also need more flexibility with my “stuff.”  We have one room that needs to function as an office for two of us and as a guest room.  We solved the “guest room” function with a Murphy bed. We now have a queen-sized bed  hidden upright on the wall behind some nice cabinetry when not in use, thanks to a kit from an outfit in Idaho.

The desk situation is trickier. We need two since I am at mine every day for hours. At the moment, mine is a 2 foot by 4 foot folding table from Costco mismatched with a small hutch from a former office setup. Three file boxes are stacked next to that, the top one open.  It works but it looks like I’m a penniless grad student.  There’s method to this madness though.  Really.

My last office furniture was lovely, large and lavish–and a nightmare to move. This temp setup has been to see what I really need.  And what I need is components, each piece small enough that I can move it, assembled, in my Subaru.  There’s some of that at Ikea–sort of.  But we also want good quality in the drawer rails, easy access to all the files in the drawer, etc.  So this flexibility will take some work–and probably come from both that European big box and an office furniture store.

I want a similar flexibility in what we buy for a “couch.” (Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to move your couch in your car?)  I want to buy it in three or four pieces instead of one big long upholstered train. If each seat is a separate piece, we can put two on one wall and two around the corner. Or three and one…or.. You get the drift.  Not sure I can find that, but I’m going to try.

It goes even farther. I want my clothes to be flexible.  (Convertible hiking pants are sooooo ingenious.) I love being able to use a shirt as a jacket or a scarf as a belt.  Reading material should be flexible.   (One reason “e-books” are gaining steam.)  Food should be flexible.  (That way I will be able to use all of it before it goes bad without eating the same thing for an entire week.)

Flexibility makes things easier.  Life has more room for fun, adventure, and new ways to grow if I’m not focused on dusting a house full of knicknacks or making sure all three vehicles have had the oil changed. Why own a vacation home, SkiDoo, or garden tiller if I use them once a year and can rent them?

Flexibility is magic.


Work after 60: Look at Your Options

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Society’s script for our 60’s says we walk off into the sunset to spend the “Golden Years” doing whatever we want.  But the checkbook—or the investment account –may be saying “not so fast.”  What do you do instead?  Trudging along doing what you’re already doing is not your only option.

According to Tom Lauricella in Wall Street Journal Sunday, almost a third of American men and women ages of 65 and 69 were still in the workforce in 2011.  Of those 70 to 74, almost 20% were still working.  This isn’t just a sour economy.  Many of these people simply prefer to include paid work as part of their lives.  More and more studies are confirming that people who remain in the work force are physically healthier, less likely to experience early cognitive decline, and have a stronger sense of well-being.  Work is good stuff for most of us.  But it’s got to be work we love.

If you need or want to keep earning money as you age, take a look at your options, your priorities, and your preferences.  Use that information to create a life that includes paid work, but that’s still an authentic balance of what you really care about.

Find work that’s your life calling.  Work at this stage of life is best done for the meaning it holds rather than the paycheck it provides.  Even if you do need the money, find something you believe in if you want to be happy (also healthy).  Doing work you‘re passionate about makes the time you spend at work part of your overall “Good Life” rather than just the means of funding it.

Find work that’s flexible.  When you are good at what you do or are willing to do something no one else wants to, you can often move toward more of a say in when you work and when you don’t.  The first step in getting to this nirvana is getting really good at what you do—which is a lot easier if you love what you do.  The second is knowing what kind of flexibility is important to you.  Is it the freedom to be able to take time during work hours watch your grandson compete in high school debate?  Or is it the flexibility to live where it’s warm in the winter and where it’s cool in the summer?

Sometimes, you don’t even need to change companies to find this.  (Home Depot and CVS were already hiring cold climate employees to work at warm climate stores where they wintered five years ago.)

Another version of flexibility comes from using technology. If you’re available to answer client questions via smart phone or can generate a bid with a laptop and wifi, where you are physically when you do it isn’t an issue.  Instead of shunning new technology, learn to use it to claim greater freedom in how you work.

Combine several small efforts to make the amount of money you need.  We tend to think in the singular about earning a living.  One job.  One paycheck.  In the traditional work force, this is true (at least for now).  But when you want to give your life better balance, combining two or three choice part-time jobs may make more sense.

I have a friend who’s a very convincing Santa.  Every year he returns to the warm climate of his career years to be a mall Santa for an employer delighted with his return.  For the rest of the year, he parlays his teaching experience into paid gigs as a tour guide for people eager to see the wonders of the western US.

Your combination will be unique to you, of course.  Let’s say you love quilting and also love dogs.  You could do custom quilting or teach quilting classes and also run a dog walking business.  Quilting works your mind and your fine motor skills.  Being responsible for those dogs keeps you fit—and feeling that unconditional love animals offer.  And you put money in the bank from both pleasures.

Anything is possible once you step into this foreign terrain called “life after 60.”  But don’t wait until you’re on that stretch of road to figure out where you want to go then.  You have to know what you love and have a pretty good idea of what kind of lifestyle is likely to work best for you if you want to thrive after 60—whether you retire or keep working.

Now’s the time to get started on that custom-designed life.


Rethinking Work Work Work

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Ever since I started speaking out about smarter versions of retirement, I’ve been an advocate of including meaningful work in the mix of your “leisure” years.  I do think that’s important.  But there’s a huge difference between “good work” and “work work work”.

With more and more of us accepting that not working at all isn’t going to be part of the strategy for our “golden years”, perhaps it’s time to take a look at this “work work work” thing.

The idea that people of character demonstrate hard work above all else has some interesting religious underpinnings.  The “work work work”  we are steeped in now grew, at least initially, from the Protestant Work Ethic–an element of the religious revolt against the Catholic Church that started with Martin Luther in 1520.  The Catholics taught that good deeds would get you to heaven.  (And included buying your way in as an option for “good deeds.”)  The Protestant revolt insisted that God predetermines who’s going to heaven (and who’s not) and that doing a lot of hard work during your life is an indication that you’re one of the chosen.  Working hard became important as a way to look holy.

For you individually,  that “work work work” mentality probably has nothing to do with religion.  It’s more likely a case of  “I need this job.”  Or maybe “That’s just the way things go for responsible adults.”  But the societal expectation that everyone needs to work hard has deep, old roots that make more logical choices difficult to sell.  “Work work work” is not particularly effective in most cases.  Premier atheletes already know this.  The rest of us need to catch on.

We don’t need to work harder.  We need to work smarter.

We don’t need to work ten hour days to prove we are worthy employees.  We need to solve problems well, get the product out where people can buy it, satisfy the customer, etc.  How many hours it takes to to do that should be a function of what needs to get done, not a time clock.

There’s a lot of cachet in working long hours though.  I once had a boss who did all sorts of non-business things during the day.  (He reprimanded me once for interrupting him–while he was balancing his personal checking account on company time.)  Then each night, he would stay until 7:00 or later because that’s when the higher ups would lavish special attention.  “You’re dedicated and here late, so you’re one of us” was the clear message.  The guy was nowhere near as productive or effective as those of us who left closer to the prescribed end of the work day.  But he got kudos just for making it look like he was work work working.

Perhaps we need to consider using a different word than “work” in how we look at what we do for a living.   In her new book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, Martha Beck recommends thinking in terms of a cycle of play and rest with no “work” in the picture whatsoever.  Rest is not always sleep and play is not just a round of golf in her scenario.  Rest is anything you do to recharge (which for me, oddly enough, includes digging in the garden dirt and doing the dishes).  Play is what you do to honor your purpose for being here at all.

When you boil it down to this kind of dichotomy, the place “work” has taken becomes more clear.  “Work” is what most of us do because other people expect it of us.  We need to rethink that mindset.  When we put effort into what we believe in, that we really want to see get done, we are energized.  When we do work that we don’t believe in but feel required to do, we are drained.

Every year you spend “work work working” takes a toll on you physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  If you still need a paycheck as you move into the last third of your life, find something that feels like play if you want to thrive.


Balance….Noun or Verb?

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Is balance something you possess or that you pursue? Are you assuming someone else decides whether you have it?  Or do you see it more as an ongoing effort on your part?

Back in graduate school, I was delighted to discover work by Martin Seligman that talked about “learned helplessness.”  The term was used to describe the mindset of individuals who assume that they’re at the mercy of “powerful others”–God, the Establishment, whatever–who decide what happens in their lives.  Their assumption that someone else holds all the winning cards keeps them from even seeing what they can do to help themselves.

Life balance is vulnerable to that kind of thinking, even if you don’t go in that direction on everything else.  It’s really easy to assume that your life is out of balance because of  the load at work, the phase your child is going through or a favor for a friend that’s gotten far more complicated than you expected.  Life should just flow smoothly and balance should be a given, right?

Nope. Assuming that is just one more way to be a “victim.”

Seeing balance as an ongoing process rather than entitlement to Nirvana keeps you in the game.  And brings you closer to it even when you can’t get the “full meal deal.” Why?  Because seeing balance as an on-going process puts you in control. You can do things to move toward that version of emotional symmetry you prefer.

The good life isn’t about always being in balance.  It’s about getting good at recovering that balance when it goes away, which it will.  Often.

Some things to consider as you work at it:

Not all efforts to achieve balance work.  If getting up an extra half hour in the morning to exercise makes you cranky for the rest of the day, forget it.  Look for a another way.

Not all options are total improvements.  Okay, you want more time with your kids.  That doesn’t mean they want to shovel snow with you.  But when they are part of getting the work done, you feel less like poorly paid hired help, right?

Sometimes your balance is on a different dimension than you planned.  So that snow shoveling wasn’t the fun “quality time” you were hoping for with whoever  you drafted to help.  You still had more time to get everything else done, right?

Balance isn’t always intentional.  Perhaps you got the surprise of your life when you insisted on help in cleaning up that snow.  Sometimes working together really is, fun.  Yes!  A nudge from a different direction.

Balance is as much about assumptions as it is about reality.  Quite often, what’s out of balance is what you are telling yourself about what should be happening.  A classic definition of stress is “the difference between what’s happening and what you think should be happening.”  Getting a solid handle on what’s reasonable under the circumstances can take you a lot closer to balance than a major overhaul.  Accept reality.  Then change as it changes.

Balance changes moment to moment.  Even if you do get into perfect balance, you’re not going to stay there.  At least not if you’re human.  The key is whether you elect to stay out of balance or put effort into moving back toward equilibrium.   As life changes, make your own changes.

A good life is balanced but it’s up to you.



Nimble after 50?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The idea of being “nimble”–agile and clever in responding–is not just for the young.

A writer friend used the word “nimble” the other day to refer to her strategy for running a business. I was delighted to rediscover the word. “Nimble” hasn’t been in the everyday lexicon of late. Maybe it’s time to reinvest in what it means.

“Nimble” per Merriam-Webster’s is “quick and light in motion” or “marked by quick, alert, clever conception, comprehension, or resourcefulness” or “responsive or sensitive.” Regardless of which of those definitions you choose, “nimble” sounds like a good idea these days. I want to be nimble.

Nimble is the combination of awareness and action that seems to have gotten lost in the scurrying of everyday life. We “study” things. We “take it into consideration.” The ability to figure out what’s going on and do something about it quickly is a lost art.

And it’s a particularly lost art for those of us over 50. Why? Because by then, not only have we gotten used to dilly dallying around “studying” things, we are assumed to have a diminished capacity for deciding at any point.

Being nimble is good at any age….in how we react to what Life throws at us…. in how we relate…. in what we do on our own behalf.

The excuses are easy for doing it that way though. “It’s too complicated to move quickly” sounds really convincing, but all too often it’s more a case of “I don’t want to think that hard.” Or…as seems to be the case with the political situation right now, “I don’t want to have to be the one to make the hard decisions and solve this impossible problem.”

This does not serve us at any age. But once the thinking demanded by a job goes away and thinking becomes even more of a choice overall, nimble becomes an even more important characteristic to cultivate on purpose. We need to choose to be nimble.


Strive to make your low stakes decisions quickly. When you go out to eat, deny yourself the right to spend ten minutes figuring out what you are going to order from the menu. Look at what’s there. Think about what you enjoy–or what you know you can eat comfortably–and decide. Then let that go and enjoy some conversation with your tablemates. You can even make a competition out of it–who can decide on the most satisfying entre the most quickly.

Pay attention to what’s going on around you. This is wise on a lot of levels but it’s easy to ignore what’s going on once you don’t have to be engaged as part of what you do for a living. Staying aware of your surroundings will keep you safer, but it’s also essential to being able to act quickly if an opportunity arises on the spur of the moment. (i.e. If a friend drives up in a newly purchased 1967 Vette and is leaving town for three weeks the next day in it, being able to say “yes” quickly might get you a ride in it, or even a chance to go along on the road trip.)

Act as soon as you can. Knowing what you need to do but not getting on with it is procrastination and procrastinaion is the mother of unnecessary problems. But if you are buying in on what the culture thinks of your abilities, it’s tempting to wait until you can confer with six friends and your spouse or maybe even ask a younger family member to decide for you. For important decisions, getting advice and double-checking is certainly wise. But for the simple things in everyday life, get on with it. Decide what needs to be done and do it.

Retirement means we have more time for whatever we choose to have in our lives. It doesn’t have to mean using a huge chunk of it to make decisions that could be made a lot quicker with no significant risk.

Nimble is good. Let’s go for nimble…at 50…65…80….90.


Retirement Reset

Monday, July 18th, 2011

We’re still us! Study results reported last week by SunAmerica suggest that Americans in or approaching retirement are “resetting” how they see and want to experience that stage of life.

In other words, the boomers are going to chart their own course yet again.  This is good news for everyone, not just those born between 1946 and 1964.

As the largest generation to enter it looks at retirement, we’re starting to see it as a real stage of life instead of just “play time.”  According to the study, two thirds of us want to include work in some way.  This is not new.  The Met Life Foundation found similar results in 2005.  But this reality needs all the attention we can find for it because finding that way to work is going to take some personal effort.

According to the study, we are more interested in family relationships now than acquiring wealth. This is also good news.  The “wealth” thing is where greed gets into the mix, and that poisons the economic well for all of us.

We now want financial security rather than just having a lot of money. That fits a whole lot better with living a long and happy life.   “Having a lot of money” creates issues about keeping a lot of money.  Having the financial security to do the things you want–or need–to do puts the focus on living your life well instead.

The study also notes that we can see we might be called upon to help someone we love financially–and we are no longer just talking about our parents.   This is a return to caring and a departure from “getting mine.”  More good news for society.

Last, according to the study, we are now more intent on getting the retirement planning right by enlisting professional help (but do bear in mind who sponsored the study).  Preparing for this stage of your life  on your own doesn’t seem like such a slam dunk anymore.

SunAmerica and Age Wave have done a great job of highlighting how Americans are seeing the potential and the risks of this stage of life differently.  But how you set it up for yourself is still up to you.

There are a lot more pieces to this puzzle than “wealth” or even “financial security.”  Take the time to understand and include all of them. What do you want to do next? What gets you jazzed enough to give you a sense of purpose?  How do you want to live and who do you want with you?  You get to decide on all of this–but only if you make those decisions.

A good retirement requires a lot more than just a magic number in your investment portfolio or pension account. To keep yourself healthy and happy, you need to know a lot about yourself, your spouse if you have one, and what’s going to make you want to get up every morning once you’ve finished the career years.


I Am NOT Going to Be a “Senior”!

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

I am definitely in the age cohort referred to as “seniors.”  But I am not going there.  Ever.

This is not about age, this is about mindset. I don’t like the kind of person a “senior” is. I spent part of this morning at a “senior center,” and the experience is still chaffing.  I finally understand why I detest the “senior” thing.

“Senior”–as in “Give me my damn discount.”  Senior–as in “I don’t want to figure it out so you do it for me.”  Senior–as in “I’m ‘old’ so you need to take care of me.”  Senior–as in “I’m entitled to complain but if you offer something that might help me, I don’t have to do it–because I’m a senior and we’re exempt from having to do anything we don’t want to do.”

While I was waiting to teach a class that this particular senior center asked me to create for them–for free–I got to listen to the routine conversations in the main room of the center.  One woman was whining because her son “only” came to visit her once a week.  She was being denied the treatment she felt she deserved because he wasn’t available to give her rides whenever she needed them.  He managed a busy local restaurant!  Since when did giving birth guarantee you a fulltime chauffeur in your advanced years?  Most mothers would feel pretty lucky if a busy son stopped by every week.

Another conversation was about bus service, which is being cut back because of the budget crisis.  That complaint was about crowded buses.  If it’s still running to where you want to go, be grateful!  Empty buses may be more comfortable for you, but they are wasting everyone’s money and also polluting the air a lot more per person that a full bus does.  And by the way, the bus system isn’t just for you.  A lot of younger workers need it to get to a job.  That job supports the economy that supports you.  Time for a little gratitude, maybe?

The class I was to teach never happened.  They said they wanted it, but no one bothered to show up when it was offered.  The county library system faces the same challenge.  There’s an “I can do whatever I want because I’m a senior” mentality that’s really ugly when it’s coupled with an expectation that the rest of us are “supposed” to be right there to help out with whatever a “senior” can’t do.

Too often, “can’t” is really “I don’t want to.”  Too often, the brains they have themselves turn to mush because it’s so much easier to ask someone else to do the thinking.  Too often, a senior’s automatic solution is to expect someone else to find the right solution.  This is a stupid way to live a life and a stupid thing to support.

No more seniors!  Senior status is a crock.  It’s lazy people outraged at the idea that they have to deal with reality like the rest of us.

We need to start expecting people every age to do as much as they can to take care of themselves.  Enough of the “oh you poor dear, let me do it for you” crap.  People thrive when they can demonstrate their own competence no matter how old they are.  They can do even more difficult things once they prove they can get one difficult thing done.  Taking this away in the name of “senior status” is a travesty.

Those who are old enough to let it happen are idiots to buy in on it.  I am old enough to be a “senior.”  After this morning, you’d be wise not to call me one.  I might “punch out your lights.”  I am not going to ever be a senior.  I am going to be as producticve and independent as I can for as long as I live.  I am going to learn and do my best to solve my own problems.  It may take me fifteen minutes to walk twenty feet to my mailbox when I am 101 but I will still do it myself.  I am NOT going to be a senior!


Anti-Aging Advice: Stand Up Straight

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

You can spend lots of money to look younger, but sometimes, the no-cost stuff will get you farther faster.  Take, for example, your posture.

As kids we’d get reminded. “Sit up straight!”….”Don’t slouch.”… “Stop hunching–you look like a Neaderthal.” It would be nice if we still got those nudges now that we are “all grown up”. But we don’t.

Yet how you carry yourself makes a strong statement about how vital you are. And that translates into how the world sees you on the “aging” continuum.

It’s not just a matter of leaving it to chance either. The deck is stacked against us–toward having bad posture. The couches and chairs we use when we relax encourage us to “lounge” rather than giving our spines good support. Our work and the rest of the responsibilities in our busy lives breed stress. Stress usually results in hunching–shoulders pushed forward and down instead of back.

Good back health demands good posture–which some experts claim is why so many of us now have back problems. And once the bad habits are formed, getting rid of them is a lot harder than learning them was.

What happens when you stand up–and sit up–straight? You can take more oxygen into your lungs. Your line of vision is higher. When I do it, I also breath more deeply and evenly. It just plain feels better.

But it also looks better.

Try this in front of the mirror:
Get yourself all stressed out about something and then check what you look like. Make it even worse on purpose–stoop forward and hunch. Notice the difference in your breathing? Notice how gravity wants to pull you down?

Now reverse it. Stand as tall as you can with your feet fully planted on the floor (no tiptoes). Pull your shoulders back and down directly over your hips. Look ahead. Tuck in your butt.  Now take some deep breaths. It’s a whole difference experience of your body, right? More pleasant, more vibrant, and yes, younger feeling.

We have the option of doing this all the time. When we do, we look different to anyone we meet. Why the vast majority of us don’t use this strategy is beyond me. Except that I have to admit I forget way too often myself.

Standing tall is good for your back, your lung capacity, and your looks.

And it’s free!! No pills to take. No down time while you recover from plastic surgery.  What a deal.