We all age, but we do not have to grow old. Look at the difference in some of the definitions for the words “age” and “old.”
Age: to mature; to bring to maturity or a state fit for use
Old: exhibiting the effects of time or long use; worn, deteriorated, decayed, or dilapidated
Which definition applies to you? Are you the delicately aged wine or cheese, or the rusted out old pile of junk.
Aging involves a developmental process. As we age, we acquire knowledge and skills that we develop and hone as a continual process during the course of our lives. Becoming old implies deterioration, we are no longer viable, and we develop a diminished desire or capacity for contributing to or participating in life.
We all know at least one or more people who can prove this theory. The 65-year-old neighbor who sits on the porch each day with joints growing stiffer by the minute, feeding cats and watching life pass by, is not who we want to become as we age. The 70 year old down the block heading off to go skiing is more like it! What causes such a great disparity in the way people age?
Genetics and health are two of the three most common factors shaping our perceptions and characteristics of aging. We cannot trade in our genes for new ones-not yet anyway. Most health issues today, other than catastrophic illness, are satisfactorily controlled allowing us to lead normal, active lives belying the number of years we have under our belts. That leaves us with culprit number three, the one that ages some people well beyond their actual years: attitude! The attitude we adopt toward aging allows us to think, feel and physically participate in life as individuals many years younger than our numbers indicate.
If you are 60 and feel like 80, even if you are 80 and feel like 80, try taking a short ten to twenty minute walk three or four times a week. You, and everyone around you, will soon begin to notice that you look and feel younger, stronger and healthier, your step is bouncier, your “attitude” toward life is improved, you are mentally sharper and more fun to be around. If you can accomplish all this by doing something as simple as taking a brief walk, imagine what would happen if you actually exercised a few times a week!
Changing your “attitude” toward your appearance will also change people’s perception of the number of candles they would expect to find on your birthday cake. Many older people do not pay too much attention to their appearance because they believe the way they look does not matter any more now that they are old. Well, it matters a great deal; the way we look determines how we feel about ourselves and our “attitude” toward our lives.
As you age, hair and makeup should not reflect the styles worn in your teen years, but some hairstyles are an advertisement for old age. The shape of your face should determine the length of your hair. If you have always worn your hair short and it becomes you, keep it that way. Choose a style that is youthful and gives the appearance of fullness especially since a woman’s hair gets thinner as she ages. If you have no objections to coloring your hair, it will take many years off your appearance, but do not choose the darker shades because they make lines and creases on the face more apparent.
Stay away from the latest “hot” lipstick and nail polish colors and choose makeup shades that blend with and brighten your natural skin coloring without being flashy, dark or too bold in color. Mineral makeup is an excellent choice. Do not forget the sunscreen and moisturizer; they will also keep your skin looking younger and healthier.
The way you dress alters your perception of yourself. When you dress young, you feel young, and you think young. Unless your figure warrants it, avoid clothing that clings. Stay away from “mature” looking outfits and instead choose simple, classic styles appropriate for almost any age. For casual wear, ditch the housedresses and the granny gowns; they are for old people. Slacks or jeans worn with a nice blouse or tee shirt are comfortable and never go out of style; they can also be dressed up with a vest or a blazer.
Hair loss is one of the biggest issues for most men. Forget the toupee unless you can afford a good one. In lieu of the hairpiece, look into hair restoration. The least expensive option for those troubled by their appearance because of hair loss is shaving it all off. Bald men are very sexy, and this option works extremely well on men with youthful looking skin. This is an excellent reason for you to take better care of your skin while you are young and pay even more attention to it as you age.
Discuss different hairstyles with your barber or hair stylist. Although grey looks more attractive on men than on women, if you have no objections to coloring your hair, do it, but avoid the darker shades.
For many older men, dressing is just a matter of putting on anything that is clean and fits. Once you stop caring about the way you look, the word “old” begins to apply. The one article of clothing that looks good at any age is jeans. They go great with a sweater, tee shirt or dress shirt, and can be dressed up with a nice blazer or sport coat.
Another thing that makes you look older than your years is that waistband resting above your crotch. Visit your doctor to discuss what you can do to reduce that belly fat. You will not only look younger, you will have a healthier, more enjoyable life.
Now we get to the serious stuff:
A healthy mind and body will slow down the aging process. We all know 60, 70, 80, even 90 year olds with more energy and vitality than people ten or twenty years their junior. They are aging without getting old and so can you.
EAT RIGHT: You do not see too many older adults who are overweight. Most people lose the extra pounds before reaching their senior years through diet or the hard way: through illness.
Eat right and lose that excess weight so you can stay healthy and enjoy aging. Limit simple carbohydrates found in starchy vegetables, pastas, breads, cereals, candy, cake and ice cream. Replace them with breads and cereals made from whole grains containing at least 3 to 4 grams of fiber, choose sweet potatoes more often than the white ones, and eat vegetable pastas. Restrict the candy, cake and ice cream to the status of an occasional special treat.
Limit or eliminate saturated fats, eat nothing containing trans fats, and watch the sodium and cholesterol content of all foods. Dairy and animal products are the major providers of fats and cholesterol in our diets. Discuss recommended restrictions on your consumption of these items with your doctor and keep them to a minimum.
EXERCISE: In our minds, we are eternally young, but keeping an aging body fit is necessary to avoid injury. Including some form of exercise in your daily routine will take years of your actual age. Recommended for all ages, walking is one of the best forms of exercise. Lifting hand weights or soup cans while watching TV is another simple and easy way to get in some exercise time. When sitting for extended periods, raise and lower your legs, turn circles with your feet, curl and uncurl your toes. Consult your doctor for recommendations for a more extensive exercise program especially if health is an issue.
STAY IN TOUCH: Stay in touch with family and friends; they offer the most easily accessible and reliable support systems for the times when you need someone else’s opinion or a sympathetic ear.
SOCIALIZE: Attend religious services, join a group at your place of worship, volunteer, work a couple of days a week at a part time job, take a class in ceramics, writing, painting, sculpting, photography, wood working, study a new language or any subject of interest to you. You will not only be learning something new, but will have the opportunity to interact with others who share your interests.
STAY SHARP: Keeping the mind sharp as we age by reading, doing puzzles like Sudoku, crosswords, scrabble, jumble, or getting a Nintendo DS and Brain Age, will challenge the brain and aid in the development of new brain cells. We can all use a few more of those.
GET A COMPANION: If you do not have a spouse or companion, get a pet. The additional responsibility of caring for a pet adds meaning to your life as well as companionship.
By following these recommendations, you will age well and stay young.