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  • Writer's pictureValerie Hopson-Bell

Old Gray Hair Mary

What’s wrong with gray hair, wrinkles and the presence of “crow’s feet”? Nothing! These are signs of aging, but also a sign of living. Nowadays people are choosing to use plastic surgery and treatments like Botox and Human Growth Hormone Replacement therapy to keep aging at bay.

As an advocate for those 60 and older, I encourage people to embrace their aging process. That doesn’t mean to retire and cement yourself to the rocking chair. It means to live life fully, to the extent that your limitations will allow. If you have no limitations, the sky is the limit, like my father in-law who went parachuting to celebrate his 75th birthday.

As we age, we gain sage wisdom, become more confident in ourselves, have an ongoing ability to learn and become more mature about staying healthy. It means that seniors tend to make a conscious effort to take care of their mind, body and soul.

Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

Heart disease, diabetes and strokes are preventable risk factors for those 60 and over. Alzheimer’s is another major concern for older adults. Using preventive measures in ensuring a healthy heart helps to lower one’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Steps in adopting a healthy lifestyle are:

• Don’t smoke or use tobacco products • Exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week • Eat foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt • Eat foods that are rich in vitamins and antioxidants such as: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, which can help protect your heart • Be sure to include beans and other legumes • Certain types of fish can also reduce your risk of heart disease • Limit your alcohol intake to one glass for women and no more than two for men

Dr. Daniel Amen, author of Use Your Brain to Change Your Age says that we need to think differently about our mental and physical health. His clinic conducted 70,000 brain scans of folks over the age of 60. They concluded what many of us in the aging field already surmised, which is that the brain gets less and less active over time. Conversely, what they found is that the more active your brain is in making good decisions about your physical health and your emotional health, the more you benefit.

Dr. Amen contends that you can slow down or reverse the aging process by making healthy choices for your brain. He says we should play what he calls “Chloe’s” Game (a game he played with his daughter over the years to teach her to make good decisions) in every life situation we should ask ourselves is this good for my brain or bad for my brain? A disturbing result of the Amen study is that as your weight goes up, the actual physical size and function of your brain goes down. He adds that you must want to make the right decision for your brain, because your brain makes all decisions for you.

When is too much of a good thing really not good for us? With the sophistication of technology, the sky is the limit. Sonia Arrison, the author of 100+ believes that the children of today may experience a “Longevity Revolution,” having the opportunity to live a life-span of triple digits. To be more specific, she states that her infant son could live to be 150 years old. Ms. Arrison is not alone in this belief, Peter Thiel, CEO and Co-Founder of Paypal is financing a drug that would allow humans to stay alive doubly long.

Fight Anti-Aging Language

When I think of the term anti-aging, I think of my dearly beloved friend, Mary Faulkner, who swam at the YMCA multiple days a week into her mid-70s. Mrs. Faulkner as I fondly called her to her chagrin, would refer to a mutual friend in her 60s as “old gray-hair Mary.”

I challenge all of you reading this to fight society’s anti-aging trend. Write to mainstream media (television, magazines, etc.) that don’t show people with gray hair in active living situations. Usually gray haired folks are shown with a cane or some other aid. Why can’t we see mature couples on television and film in positive ads expressing genuine love for one another?

Oftentimes I hear people saying “I don’t want to get old” and then I remind them what the alternative to getting old is. The key to aging well is to not limit yourself. I think if we focus more on living a quality life, rather than adopting society’s viewpoint of getting older and anticipating the end of life, then we would welcome aging as it really is, just a normal process of the life cycle.


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