At the recent Northeastern Pennsylvania Conference on Aging, Dr. Linda Fried, Dean of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, asked the crowd, “What would you do with 30 more years of life?” This is a simple, but powerful question and is an especially important one for Baby Boomers who are quite literally reaching those last “Golden Years” of their life.
Dr. Fried’s question was focused on the fact that advances in medicine, public health and social policy have created the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to have an extra 30, 40, perhaps even 50 years of life. She also pointed out that policies and many of the practices surrounding the issue of aging have a huge blind spot when it comes to finding solutions to meet the challenges ahead. We, as a nation, just have not invested in geriatric medicine and for some reason do not seem to believe that a geriatric medical system, including an investment in prevention so people are already healthier when they grow old can actually turn out to be very good for every age.
That’s why it’s imperative that we, as Baby Boomers take our health and wellness into our own hands! If we’re not responsible for ensuring we are active and well, no one else will be.
Research shows that prevention in the form of diet, exercise, and health screenings can help decrease the possibility of chronic illnesses as we age. In addition, exercises such as yoga and resistance training or weight lifting help prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone density. Yoga also helps increase core strength and balance, both of which help prevent falls.
It’s more than just taking care of our bodies, though. It’s taking care of our spirits, too. Ensuring our mental attitude is in a good place. More than once, I’ve met folks who no longer seem to enjoy life. I’m not sure if it was because they felt they could no longer do what they once could or if they just couldn’t deal with getting older.
It helps to get involved with a social group. If you like animals, volunteer at your local animal shelter. They are always looking for good volunteers and always need the help. If you like children, volunteer to read to the little ones at the local library. You may be the only older person that little one ever sees and may have a profound impact on his or her life. If you’re a gardener, volunteer to help weed and seed at your local park or at your church or at a neighborhood preschool. I guarantee they’ll welcome the help. If you enjoy baking, bake some cookies and take them by the local fire department. You’ll be greeted with cheers and loved by all (and firefighters are a lot of fun! I should know, my son is one!) The point is to get out and mix it up with other people.
Take a class. Check with your local community college to see if they have a Lifelong Learning Institute. These classes are usually geared toward people who are retired and who are interested in learning something new or different. You can also check into a class through the Community Recreation Center or your local library or a local university. Many times they will have reduced costs for retired individual or folks over a certain age.
As Dr. Fried pointed out earlier, our country’s medical system is woefully behind in geriatric medicine. The reality is there aren’t enough geriatric interns in the training pipeline to handle all of us as we age into our “Golden Years.” We need to do everything we can to ensure we are as healthy as we can be.
Life is too short to live it timidly. Let’s Live it Well and With Attitude!!