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Beacon Senior News

Use it before you lose it: How to challenge your body and mind

Dec 23, 2021 09:58AM ● By Wendell Fowler
Man sitting with a book in hand

The Doors’ Jim Morrison cautioned, “No one here gets out of life alive.” 

In late life, I’m devoted to seizing each precious moment as best as I can by exercising my mind, learning, maintaining my appearance and keeping active—thus living as fully as my aging body permits.

Life’s teaching me that aging is overrated. But with a positive attitude, self-love and genuine effort, it doesn’t need to be as bad as people think. Sure, convenience is important as our aging limitations manifest, but we mustn’t walk the path to its inevitability ready to give up.

Giving up is easy. The discomfort that comes from learning is less welcome as we age because, for many reasons, it becomes more difficult.

Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old. Whether 20 or 80, anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” 

The great Michelangelo wrote the inscription “still I am learning” at age 87 on a sketch he was working on at the time. If we’re mentally present in the moment, learning, challenging our brain cells and growing in wonder and awe, we can retain our joie de vivre.


THINK GOOD THOUGHTS

The first place we lose the battle of aging is in our thoughts. If we think we’ve reached our limits, then we have. If we think we will never be well, then we won’t. To counter that, we must look inward to see what’s blocking us, filter our thinking, discard negative self-talk, and be aware that a lack of positive enthusiasm negatively affects our entire being.

I heard a friend of mine say, “I’m satisfied with what I know. Now I can spend my days eating, burping, napping, watching TV and movies, playing cards and board games.” 

In all respects, it’s their journey and not my business. But I’ll admit hanging out with fellow seniors who seem to have given up sucks the life out of me. Their grumbling about their various illnesses, where they ache, or (as if it’s a competition) how many prescriptions they take empowers the beast of aging by focusing their energy on the negative.

Experience has taught me that worrying and complaining changes nothing, except cheating me out of what little sands of time I have left in the hourglass. Complaining evaporates any joy we might find.

I’ve realized that my thoughts combined with feelings and self-talk have power. It’s Newton’s Law of Attraction. When I think negative thoughts, they gain power and, sure as heck, bad things follow. When I think good thoughts, good then follows.


It takes effort

Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends’ survey on aging found we’re never too old to feel young. But it takes mindful effort. Sitting around waiting for the end is simply self-defeating. 

The study’s results showed about eight in 10 seniors read a book, newspaper or magazine. Some prefer educational classes or podcasts to grow their knowledge, avoiding sensational, polarizing political theater, fear-based journalism and scandalmongering pop celebrity gossip.

To live my best life now, I’ve chosen to stretch my brain before it seizes up completely (although friends and family agree the boat has already sailed). Once I knew I could still learn whatever piqued my curiosity, I realized the only one stopping me was me. And it seems the more I learn, the more I learn I have more to learn...and unlearn. It never ends. Education is not something we ever finish. It’s not a waste to invest in ourselves, to grow and learn about the earth, humanity and the vast, mysterious cosmos.

I’ve given family and friends permission to call me out if they ever see me wearing the “I’ve given up” uniform—a fanny pack, white sneakers, baggy sweatpants and untrimmed nose hairs. However, when I get up each day with the sun, stretch, make my daily intention and the bed, dress well, tidy my appearance and check my beard for granola crumbs, my day and I take on a higher vibe.

Give up? Not me. Granted, I’m a long way from perfect and as humanly flawed as the next person. I don’t always succeed, but I give it my best shot. I may be ancient to my grandkids, but I’m still alive, care how I look and age, and take advantage of this magnificent, albeit relatively short, earthly experience.

Yes, Jim, no one gets out alive. The reality is, we all start dying the moment we’re born. So why not seize each precious remaining day and learn something new? It would be such a wasted opportunity on our unique journey of life to give in prematurely.