One day at a time, using common sense

We’ve all heard stories of someone’s grandfather who is turning 98 and drinks a bottle of whiskey a day while chain-smoking cigarettes.

As an educator, I have always recognized that not all 10-year-olds or 18-year-olds are the same.

Young people grow and develop at varying rates, leading to differing intellectual, physical and social capabilities in any group of individuals who share the same year of age.

This is no different at the other end of the age spectrum, either.

Elderly people age at different rates.

There are, of course, both genetic and lifestyle reasons for this.

We’ve all heard stories of someone’s grandfather who is turning 98 and drinks a bottle of whiskey a day while chain-smoking cigarettes.

Funny, I’ve heard of several of them but never actually met one; I suspect they are like the Loch Ness monster – great stories but not easy to verify.

Now that my peer group includes some folks generally considered to be in the elderly category, I can certainly attest to the fact that there are wide variations.

The wear and tear of work or sports has increased the joint issues and mobility for some who were looking forward to daily golf in retirement, while others are taking long walks, even running marathons, well into their 80s.

Despite the claims of many “snake oil” merchandisers in the fountain of youth business, there is no easy solution to the process of aging, at least not yet.

The health practices that are good for all ages continue to be important for the elderly – good nutrition, good sleep patterns, regular physical exercise and plenty of social and intellectual stimulation.

Those who have followed such routines, for a lifetime, may well have some advantages over those who only come to such a realization late in life, or after a crisis, but at any point in time, starting new and healthy routines can provide a better quality of life.

Aging, as a process, is undeniable but it is possible to age more gracefully at any stage with some good planning and, for sure, a little good luck.

Like all matters of positive thinking, it is about taking one day at a time and putting in place the common sense routines that bring both satisfaction and the best health possible.

There will be changes, significant ones with each decade after 60 years of age, but many of these changes can be managed well through maintaining strong and supportive relationships with medical professionals as well as a support network of family and friends.

The active mind and body makes the most of every situation that arises, accepting that changes do not always have to be viewed as losses.

Sometimes, giving up one thing simply helps you find something different that can be equally enjoyed.

While the 98-year-old whiskey drinking, chain-smoking grandfather may be more mythological than realistic, the notion of a long life with a high quality of health is not only becoming more common, but can be the result of more than just genetic good fortune.

It is possible to live long, and well, through smart choices.

 

Graham Hookey writes about education, parenting and eldercare (ghookey@yahoo.com).

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