Staying on the green side of the grass

Staying on the green side of the grass

September 26, 2021 0 By Rick

How do you go about living a long life? What’s the secret to aging successfully? What is successful aging? How do you keep staying on the green side of the grass? Let’s define successful aging first. The phrase “successful aging” has become a buzzword over the past few decades. At some point in life, we all become concerned about aging. We want to know what to expect, what to do, what to avoid and how to adapt. New research has shown a correlation between how we think about old age and how we actually age. In addition to all the normal advice you can read about that deals with nutrition, exercise and sleep, there’s another component often neglected – mindset! How you view yourself is the key, in my opinion. If you feel old, then you’re old. If you feel young, then you’re young – at least at heart. 

The many faces of successful aging
What, then, does successful aging mean these days, and how do we accomplish it? John Wallis Rowe and Robert Kahn published an influential book entitled Successful Aging. Their model, which is arguably the best known and widely applied model of successful aging and focuses on health, stipulates that “better than average” aging is a combination of three components: avoiding disease and disability, high cognitive and physical function and engagement with life. If you want to age successfully, you’ll need to remain healthy by exercising, eating wholesome (non-processed) food, not smoking, getting regular medical check-ups and getting vaccinations, a touchy subject that fuels many arguments today. They also recommend that you develop and maintain personal relationships that give you emotional and physical support. A good example of this is walking groups.

 A state of mind
As my birthdays roll by – seemingly faster than ever – I’ve come to believe that age is simply a matter of mindset. I know people who are “old” at 35-40 and people who are “young” at 75. I stumbled across a quote several years back that I fell in love with. I wish I knew who wrote this, but unfortunately, I don’t. I think it captures the power of having the right mindset perfectly. “Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind, a product of the imagination, vigor of emotions, a predominance of courage over timidity, an appetite for adventure. No one grows old by living a number of years. People grow old when they desert their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, self-doubt, fear, and anxiety – these are the culprits that bow the head and break the spirit. Whether 16 or 70, there exists in the heart of every person who loves life the thrill of a new challenge, the insatiable appetite for what is coming next. You are as young as your faith and as old as your doubts. So long as your heart receives from your head messages that reflect beauty, courage, joy, and excitement, you are young. When you’re thinking becomes clouded with pessimism and prevents you from taking risks, then you are old. And may God have mercy on your soul!”

Key components 
Self-efficacy is a belief in your ability to solve problems and meet challenges, according to Rowe and Khan. That means you shouldn’t allow people to do too much for you. Do it yourself, instead. Do your utmost to participate in productive activities however you define them. This could be continuing to work in your career, volunteering, pursuing a hobby or just working around the home. Maintain a healthy and optimistic attitude about aging and find a sense of meaning and purpose in your life. A sense of spirituality, however you define it, is important and doesn’t necessarily mean a traditional belief in God. It can be a feeling of being part of something larger than yourself. Other more everyday criteria could be as simple as being satisfied with your life, learning new things, being financially secure, maintaining a good sense of humor and enjoying life. It’s all about attitude!

Believe in yourself and like yourself 
After all, if you don’t like the company you’re keeping when you are alone, how can you expect anyone else to? Instead of just going through the motions of life, savor each and every phase of it. Instead of wasting your valuable time just stumbling through life, make a plan and follow through on it. You don’t want to reach old age and look back with regrets. So, what’s it going to be? Are you going to plod along doing the same old things, or are you going to follow your heart and intuition? Remember, the goal is to die “young” as late as possible and to make sure you’re still “alive” when you do die. To me, successful aging means staying productive, being mentally fit, enjoying life, continuing to do the things I’m good at and, perhaps most importantly, being able to lead a meaningful life. I love Clint Eastwood’s approach. When asked how he managed to stay active, produce and star in movies at 91, his reply reveals his mindset. “Every morning when the ‘old man’ comes knocking at my door, I refuse to let him in.” That sounds like pretty good advice that will help you stay on the green side of the grass.