Whether just yesterday you discovered that first gray hair or it happened during the last millennium, do you wonder what it will take to stay in good health for years ahead? As a mom and grandmother, I plan to be around a good long time to have fun with my family.
So I began doing research on longevity. While this “report” is not scientific, because I only polled women who were guests at the Oaks, in my circle of friends and even some college pals, surprisingly, the answers were similar.
Of course, the best way to live a little more and live longer is to wear a seatbelt, never drink and drive, don’t smoke and always floss. These women then went on with specifics:
Stretch your comfort zones. One dear friend, now in her eighties, told me, “Comfort zones are so restrictive.” The women I interviewed said they regularly challenged themselves at work and at home. They made goals and they tried new things from types of activities to where they vacationed to even friends and relationships. They said they were trying to spend more time with family and friends and less connected to electronic devices. They learned new skills and developed second and third careers. The women who put their careers or education on the back of the stove when raising families were extremely focused with future plans and how to achieve them.
Take care of your body. While some health problems come with age, the women I spoke with stayed on top of situations. They had wellness checkups, including mammograms, dental exams and bone density tests. They knew genetic concerns and talked with specialists.
“Give of yourself and you’ll feel better,” said one of the younger women who had just graduated from high school. The women in my not-so-scientific bunch were generous with time in their communities, families and worship centers. The more senior members said, “Retirement is dangerous with too much Facebook, TV and gossip,” and reported that they’d had friends who became addicted to these.
Laugh well and often. One told me, “I’ve had plenty of tragedy in my life. I make an effort to seek ways to laugh. And I choose friends who like to laugh. It’s like aerobic exercise—keeps my mind fit.” It’s true. A good belly laugh increases the heart rate and burns calories. However, you’d have to laugh for 15 minutes to burn off two Hershey’s Kisses and it would take an hour of chortles to burn one Godiva chocolate bar. Sounds good to me.
Bare it all and be yourself. If there was one thing the women stressed was to be themselves. Their weights were within a healthy range; not one was super-model skinny. They were comfortable in their bodies and really sought out ways to make others feel wanted, appreciated and special.
“Learn to get over it,” I was told time and again when I asked how they stayed happy and grounded. Just forgive and love again. At any age, it’s easy to be hurt when we reach out with love. What I learned during the “interview” session was that the women have learned to accept flaws in others. Somehow they forgot about their own hurts and reached out even after sad situations. “Hate and anger are heavy, like a 20-pound turkey at Thanksgiving. It’s easy to lift it into your shopping cart at the grocery store and bring it home, but you wouldn’t want to carry it around for a month.” Their secret? Let it go.
Schedule playtime. The women in the group who were sixty and seventy something said they shied away from people who felt just play was for youngsters. One spoke up, “I love to have tea parties and dance the tango.” Another laughed and added, “Whatever is there to be afraid of? Those who never play are old before their years.” One in the group just learned to surf. Another was taking flying lessons.
Nibble the chocolate, sip the wine and eat to live. Without exception, the women I spoke with ate to live. Sure they loved beautiful and gourmet food and wine, but food wasn’t their lives. The younger ones with active families said the message then wanted their kids to hear was clear. As one said, “I’d be a hypocrite if I told my teen to drink water while I grabbed a soda.” They kept the pantry and fridge stocked with fruits, vegetables, yogurt and treats made with whole grain.
“Exercise like your life depends on it,” said a trim mom with three college-age sons. The favorite routine was brisk walking, followed in no particular preference by fitness classes at the gym, dancing, swimming, golfing and cycling.
Life isn’t easy and staying fit and healthy seems to take more energy with each birthday. We must, however, take health seriously. By doing so we’re role models for the daughters, nieces and little girls in our lives who see how we stay fit for life.