The future can be overwhelming. Growing older means many physical changes to our bodies and the world around us that we cannot control. Many of us try to ignore this reality, trying to grasp onto our youth like a slippery bar of soap. Instead, we should realize that aging is a gift that not everyone is afforded, and we should treat it as such.
The perspective of age from youth.
When you are a child, you frantically want to grow up. You want to look like cool teenagers, driving cars and staying up late.
Once you reach your twenties, you feel like you have your life made. Your body is at its peak and you can do whatever you like, with your body carrying you through it all.
As you start to approach your thirties, though, you start noticing little things. At age 30, you can’t stay up as late as you used to or survive off just ramen noodles anymore. If you’ve only had this invincible body for about ten years, what will happen to the rest of your life?
Reaching middle age.
You’ve reached age forty. You still feel young and you wonder why you ever thought middle-aged was considered “old.”
Your parents, however, are beginning to heavily age. They can’t move as well as they used to, and their other senses are diminishing as well. Is this a glimpse of your future?
What happens to your body as you age?
As you get older, your cellular reproduction rate slows down. Your muscles lose elasticity, your skin wears out, and your brain begins to shrink in volume. The risk for diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer increase as your body ages.
As scary as this is, by taking the opportunity to learn about the aging process, you can be prepared to handle it as it comes.
According to the United Nations and the World Health Organization, “Ageism is the stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. Ageism can take many forms, including prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory practices, or institutional policies and practices that perpetuate stereotypical beliefs.”
This is important to note since age discrimination occurs against both younger and older people. It’s easy to assume that an older adult or a teenager would be physically or mentally incapable of a task, even if they are more capable than you are.
By dismissing people of different ages of us, especially those older, we are subconsciously telling ourselves that we too will lose value as we age.
Our favourite success story is that of our own founder, Karen. She was 48 when she was determined to create her own app, without any previous experience in software development. If it weren’t for her, WeStretch wouldn’t exist and many people wouldn’t be able to move as easily as they do now.
You are never too old to achieve your goals or create new dreams.
Our average lifespan is increasing.
We are likely going to see a huge shift in population in our lifetime. Scientists predict that by 2030, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 5, and 1 out of every 8 people will be over 65. This has only been possible with the advancement of science and medicine, which increases the life expectancy of people in developed and developing countries alike.
Even still, there still remains a few “Blue Zones” that have the average highest life expectancy and longest-lived people around the world.
The average lifestyle of these Blue Zones, as written by Dan Buettner, involves:
- Moderate and regular physical activity.
- Life purpose.
- Stress reduction.
- Moderate caloric intake.
- Plant-based diet.
- Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine.
- Engagement in spirituality or religion.
- Participation in family life.
- Engagement in social life.
These people seek to put their health and well-being first, while still enjoying life. In many of these cases, these activities are a part of daily life. In Sardinia, their exercise comes from raising farm animals and walking to work, not from going to the gym for hours.
When you seek to live a higher-quality lifestyle, your overall lifespan will improve.
Striving to age gracefully.
By taking care of your body today, you are preparing for the future. You decrease the risk of mental and physical deterioration and you will be there for your family’s future. Here are suggestions to ensure good health as you age.
Exercise in a way that works for you.
Surprise: stretching is our favourite activity! Stretching improves overall energy, increases range of motion, and improves circulation.
Regardless of fitness level, taking the time for a quick walk, a bike ride, or doing some strength training exercises outdoors is a great way to get some fresh air and increase movement in your day. Consciously move more, doing whatever appeals to you.
Fuel your body properly.
Stay hydrated and consciously eat foods that make you feel good- both in the moment and as you digest them. Eat your vegetables and your whole grains, but also thoroughly enjoy that cookie. By nourishing your relationship with food and allowing yourself to enjoy little treats prevents massive binges and boosts overall life satisfaction.
This one is often well-cited when it comes to longevity, but it can also affect how you perceive yourself. Your skin ages faster and turns yellow with the carcinogens, making you appear older than you are.
Apart from lung cancer, heart disease, and a myriad of other illnesses, smoking can also ruin your sense of smell and taste. While this seems minor compared to the health concerns, it affects the enjoyment of everyday moments, like tasting a delicious cake or smelling a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
Regulate alcohol consumption.
Red wine is often said to be high in antioxidants and good for preventing diseases. Drinking together is a great social activity. Too much alcohol, though, can have adverse effects on your health, which can affect your liver, your sleep, and even your immune system!
Get enough sleep.
The more we learn about sleep, the more we learn how important it is. A lack of sleep can wear your body down. Sleep is how we improve our memory, our bodies heal and grow, and our immune systems stay strong.
Be mindful in your day.
Whether that’s actively meditating or just taking a moment to watch the birds outside your window, taking the time to be present is a great chance for your mind to rest and relax.
Invest in your mental health as much as you do your physical health.
You don’t need to feel like you’re going crazy to talk to a therapist or counselor. They can help you work through your thoughts and find ways to make you feel at ease in your own skin. (Do your research into who you choose. Make sure they are adequately qualified and a good fit for your personality.)
Know that aging doesn’t have to be a scary thing and can actually be a process you look forward to.
Here are some words of advice from seniors who have lived a happy and full life.
Keep yourself entertained.
It is never too late to do what you want to do. Whether it’s switching career paths completely or starting a new hobby, finding things you enjoy can help your mind stay sharp as you age.
If you need any more inspiration about why aging is a gift, look no further than Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness.
“One thing that I would see or hear a lot was people making fun of or dreading aging and I think having experienced loss, I’ve realized that aging is such a gift,” they say.
“If you’re being given the gift to learn and grow, why would you not enjoy everything you’re experiencing?”
“I think that life is so precious and I don’t want to waste it thinking I have to fight an inevitability that’s actually beautiful.”
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Written by Kayla Willsey
Updated June 1, 2021