Last evening, I listened to a physician on television declare that Covid is especially problematic to people “who have the diseases of aging,” such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, etc. Unfortunately, he didn’t miss a beat when I shouted, “Not so fast, Skippy!”
Lifestyle choices versus aging
Somehow, Skippy missed the tons of research that proves most diseases result from poor lifestyle choices, and not aging. We even can “turn off” bad genes (epigenetics) with healthy living. Diabetes may run in your family, but wise choices can hold it at bay. We choose to overeat. We choose to veg out on the sofa or sit glued to our computers. I notice that the sidewalk on my street is not filled with walkers or joggers, but dog walkers sauntering along—with frequent watering stops.
It’s the poor choices that drive diabetes, heart disease, and a ton of other ailments. Their connection to aging is only that sufferers have lived this way for years, so the illnesses turn up or get worse in senior years. But they are not because of aging itself. I have a real problem with health care professionals who indicate in any way that they are “normal” to the aging process.
What is it like to be old?
When I announced with awe, “Gee, Grandma, you’re really old,” when she was a mere 80 something (she lived to 93) she said, “But I don’t feel old.”
Now you know why she is my role model.
A fascinating article in the June AARP Bulletin , The New Truth About Aging, by Sari Harrar, expands on Kleine’s answer. (I refer to my Grandmother as “Kleine” because it means “little one” in German. She was not a large woman, and until I learned German, I differentiated between my grandmothers as “little” Grandma and “big” Grandma.) Big Grandma lived to be 103, by the way.
Harrar’s article is based on the results of a “full breath (probe) of aging issues, from health and finances to attitudes about happiness, home, optimism and even dying.”
- First, Kleine was right when she said she did not feel old. The study agreed. As I age outwardly, I don’t feel old inside either; perhaps wiser and less easily upset, but not “old.”
- And that’s the point about how older people define health. The majority (78-83%) rate their health as good, even when they have chronic, even serious, illnesses. If they can get up, do the things that are important to them during the day, they live their lives with resilience. It’s all how one frames one’s situation. (When I tell one of my complaining body parts to “get with the program and stop the bitchin’,” it usually does.)
- Many older adults can teach the younger generations how to live a healthy life-style. Asked what defines a “good” life, the majority responded: sharp brain function, close relationships, and independence. So, they do whatever it takes to live that life.
- Older adults reported they are now living their “best possible life.” Besides “♪♪♪ accent(ing) the positive, and eliminate(ing) the negative, ♪♪♪” seniors no longer define themselves by what they do, but more by who they are.
I think it’s a great time to follow those buried dreams and get cracking on that bucket list.
 AARP.ORG/Bulletin June 2022 Vol 63 No. 5