Old is a very confusing word. Furniture when it is old can be ready for the junk pile or alternatively a very collectible antique.
My Mother who died at 68 never saw herself as old and behaved as a much younger woman. I have friends who say they are too old to do anything much at all and I have known women who have turned 100 who believe anyone in their eighties is a youngster. I see pictures in papers of people in their nineties who look 20 years younger and people who are in their forties who look 20 years older.
I read recently about a 92 year old woman who learned to swim in her fifties. She does laps four times a week, keeps space in her dining room to dance, reads art books and enjoys a pink gin and tonic every night. A very dear friend who lived to be over 100 enjoyed driving her car, living in her own home, playing bridge, painting portraits and landscapes and staying up to date with political matters and world news in general. These women are great role models even if people such as myself can’t achieve those individual goals we can strive for fulfilment within our own means.
Therefore I have come to the conclusion that old is in the mind! I came to this point after reading a great deal about what we should do to stay young/healthy/slim/active/clear minded/mobile and ad infinitum. I would love to embrace all the foresaid attributes but the path to these holy grails of life is torturous, contradictive and convoluted.
I read recently we sit too much and all the sitting takes a big toll on our life span. It was suggested that people in offices should therefore stand and use higher desks. Other findings point standing too much creates problems and people in these jobs should be provided with chairs or stools.
Exercise is good for us but it’s hard to get a consensus on how much and what kind is best. Aqua aerobics is safe and stretches the muscles and can in fact get up a bit of steam. Swimming is good but it is not weight bearing and in order to beat osteoporosis we must add another discipline. Walking half an hour every day usually gets the tick of approval from all the ‘experts’ but then there is a need to puff a bit to include the heart. Tennis after a certain age can cause Achilles tendon problems and jogging foot and ankle injuries. What to do?
A group of eighty year olds started a hand ball team. They play each week, listen to music, enjoy each others company and eat a traditional meal. Long skirts flying and headdresses askew they have a lust for life rarely seen in younger sporting teams.
Then there is the dietary advice. Don’t eat snacks, don’t eat in front of television, limit the intake of alcohol, caffeine, sugary drinks and drink lots of water. The following day I read, be careful how much water you drink as it leeches vitamins! Foods low in sugar can be high in fat and vice versa, always check the labels. Always eat breakfast and be sure to include fiber. Fast between dinner and the following morning’s breakfast. Don’t leave long periods between meals as the body learns to store food and thus creates fat! Limit red meat in your diet, only eat free range chicken as the other sort is high in hormones, be careful of fish as it can contain heavy metals, limit dairy and eat no more than four eggs a week.
It is suggested in order to stay slim, limit bread, fat, sugar, chocolates, potatoes and foods cooked in oil. Added to the list above I believe I may well starve to death.
I set off for the supermarket with my reading glasses and a pen and paper but often the labelling required a magnifying glass. Squinting my way down the aisles took an hour and in general I found the sugar versus fat information was correct. The Australian Owned label could come from anywhere and nearly all snack foods were questionable in one way or another.
Then there’s the list to keep mentally active. Play bridge, do sudoku, the crossword, the cryptic crossword, interact with the community, see friends, volunteer, join clubs, go on holidays, stay positive, release old hurts and keep both physically and mentally active for a fulfilling lifestyle. Wow I am becoming exhausted trying to work out a happy, healthy regime.
Finally I decide, at least for now, I will stick to my current diet. It’s quite well balanced and I think if I gave up too much I would become miserable I am not the athletic type but I do enjoy aqua aerobics, flopping around in our home pool (I can only swim breaststroke) and walking with my husband and Spike the dog. I have no intentions of giving up my morning coffee, drinking wine or cooking with olive oil. As for old hurts at my age they are long forgotten and current ones just don’t seem life threatening and can therefore be ignored. The question ‘is this life threatening’ is a great one for me right across the board. Guess what the answer 99% of the time is no it is not.
One of the problems with holidays is no longer the availability of time but rather the cost. To enjoy travelling both within Australia and overseas I am checking out swapping homes (Ronny Flynn’s, Home Exchange article on June 4th last year). I sit up in bed with my coffee, read the paper, do the crossword each morning and before rising I smile at the ceiling (a tip I read from a Buddhist book) and think of something positive to begin the day. After a fiber breakfast I work on Fifty Five Plus which is a great joy. Reading letters, researching articles and writing for me is very fulfilling. The rest of my day changes to suit appointments but I make sure I get a chance to play in the pool and take a walk in the park.
All in all it is a good life and I appreciate tips for ‘Good Living in Old Age’ but I think they must all be taken with the proverbial grain of salt and for goodness sake what is OLD anyway!