January 6, 2014 in Features

Take action to battle old age

Wina Sturgeon McClatchy-Tribune
 

It happens gradually, usually around the age of 50. It happens faster after retirement. Without even realizing it’s happening, you become old.

The fact is, we’re all going to get “old.” But many boomers get elderly long before they have to. The symptoms creep up in a subtle fashion, and life changes so slowly that by the time it clicks that you’ve become an old person, you think you’re stuck, and that’s the way your life is going to be from now on.

That’s so wrong! Here’s how to prevent it – to change back to a “younger” you, where you can stay more youthful for many years to come.

First, it’s important to know how much life has changed in the past decades. Even in the 1980s, a woman was considered “old” at 40. Male actors were no longer considered sexy when they hit 50. But today, when modern medicine and nutrition (and Botox) have made big strides, youth lasts for a much longer time.

For example, both George Clooney and Antonio Banderas are in their early 50s – 51 and 52, respectively. Meryl Streep is 63; Goldie Hawn is 67. And the still active Clint Eastwood is 82. It isn’t just Hollywood personalities who are considered younger for a longer time. There’s a growing realization that business executives and even ordinary workers are both capable and valuable after the age of 50. Finally, the trend is changing so that it’s easier for those over 50 to be hired or to start a new career.

Here are the three biggest reasons why many boomers retreat into old age when they really don’t have to:

1. ISOLATION: As people hit their middle years, there’s less opportunity for social interaction. There may be divorce or death of a spouse, and loss of contact with former friends.

A person over 50 usually can’t just drop into a bar or club. The dating game fades. There are fewer parties and other gatherings. Some people drift away from friends; and for many others, children and other relatives live far away.

This often leads to social and physical isolation. The circle of relationships narrows, and there may be no one left to hang out with. Many relationships wane to occasional phone calls. If you notice yourself spending a lot more time alone, start going to places where you can interact with others, even if it’s volunteering, going to a senior center or even local church activities.

2. LACK OF CHANGE: How long have you had the same furniture, in the same place? How long has your day consisted of the same breakfast, the same daily routine, with no changes?

Recent studies show that people who live a life without much variation go on a type of ‘automatic pilot’ and stop using their brain creatively. Nothing can make you older faster than living an unchanging life that just repeats most days over and over.

Even something as simple as rearranging your furniture can help make a difference. Start changing little things, like the route you use to get home, your hairstyle, even learning a new activity. Those new experiences will help keep you more youthful.

3. SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE: How much time do you spend just sitting? How much time do you spend watching television?

A lifestyle where you don’t move around and get little or no exercise will rob you of energy. It will take physical effort just to get up off the couch, so you’ll end up spending even more time sitting. Nothing can make you get older faster. Start getting younger with exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the block.


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