If I get one more article for The Senior Times on Healthy Aging with the advice, Exercise and Eat right, I’m going to croak (to borrow my Aunt Beryl’s expression).
Why am I so bothered by the expressions “healthy aging” and “keeping your brain active?” Partly, I don’t want to see us lumped into one mold. Who are we to those who would advise us? Do we do nothing with our lives? Have we retired into oblivion with no passions or desires but to keep that noggin’ tickin’ for a few more years?
Then there are the platitudes: nutrition and exercise. But every one is different and what’s exercise for me ain’t necessarily so for you.
I like to walk but my knees can no longer hike. I can’t bicycle and running is out of the question. I don’t like regimented exercise. Never have — even as a kid. I like to dance but I’ve got to take it slow, as Leonard Cohen sings.
As for nutrition, I’m on the Ketogenic “diet” consuming as few carbs as possible and cutting out sugar, and I feel great. But for others, this would be a prison sentence. No carbs? Why bother living, some would say.
What I’d like to say to those of a certain age is this: do what you love; love what you do. If you can afford it, travel. If you can’t afford it, travel in your own city. Explore new vistas whether it’s Little Italy and the Jean Talon market or St. Viateur. While you’re at it, stop in to have a bagel at one of the two oldest bagel shops in town, unless you’re on the Ketogenic diet in which case you can wrap your lox and cream cheese in lettuce.
Enjoy a rich latte at the Italian Social Club on the corner of Esplanade and St. Viateur, the best place to meet people, see and be seen.
If you think of yourself as an older person or a senior, stop. Think of yourself as you. You’re not different from what you’ve always been just because you’re older. It’s all in your head. If you think you’re old, you’ll be old.
Okay, it’s not that simple. We have more problems than we once did. Our knees hurt, our back hurts, our shoulders ache. But hey, if we still have our minds and hearts, we still have the power to do good in the world and do good for ourselves.
I don’t believe in doing charity for the hell of it. Yes, I contribute to causes on Change.org and have a foster child with Plan Canada. But I believe my causes should equal my passions. Now, it’s teaching art in Ecuador. I’ve never felt so good teaching anything anywhere as I do teaching art to these wonderful children in Salinas. When I marvel at a child’s painting, I certainly don’t have time to think about whether I’m aging in a healthy way.
There are people here in Salinas who are changing the world. Don is teaching construction to Ecuadorian workers. Randy is establishing a shelter for the many homeless dogs and cats here, with the help of the expat community and the City of Salinas.
It won’t be easy sustaining the effort financially but we’re all supporting her efforts. Dodie is the chief fundraiser for disadvantaged children in Salinas, with a program to sponsor a child, for school supplies and a uniform, Christmas and birthday presents. For Jennifer, a 14 year old with brain cancer, Dodie has raised over $4,000 and will shave her head when we reach $5,000. Dodie also runs her own hostel. I doubt she has time to think about her aging process.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t look after your health while you’re changing the world. Make those mammogram, prostate and colonoscopy appointments and keep them. That’s part of our lives as we age. Oops, I used the A word.
Please stop, advice givers, sending these annoying articles on Healthy Aging. My brain is doing better than ever: I’m learning a new language and getting good at it, I’m teaching something I’ve never taught before, I’m painting, I’m editing articles in my newspaper, and I’m avoiding TV like the plague although sometimes I can’t help but watch CNN Live.
But it doesn’t help me or anyone else to stew over Donald Trump and his latest antics. TV is a brain-deadener. It’s not going to enlighten us. Reading is. And while you’re reading, try I’m Your Man, the Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons. Leonard packed 10 lives into one and three religions into one too and never thought once about healthy aging or keeping his mind active.
Live, breathe, work, play, love, invent, scheme, write, sing in a choir or in the shower, eat foods that make your body and mind happy, paint, read, swim, walk along the beach or that city street you’ve always wanted to explore, take photos of summer flowers, and take in these last days of summer at an outdoor café or biking along the Lachine Canal… and try to forget about healthy aging!