Aging Successfully

Do you dread the days when you look in the mirror and see a lot of wrinkles in your forehead or a crown of snowy or receding hair on your head? Or walking down the sidewalk much more slowly than others and adjusting your glasses to get a better view of your direction? Well, that’s old age for many of us. Just say "getting old" and for others it conjures images of a glum and gloomy future.

Well, that’s what others think. What about you, what do you think? And have you ever tried asking the glib granny next door or the recently-retired workmate at the office about the state of their station in life? Surprisingly, those mental images of doom and despair are just that-images. There are a lot of misconceptions about aging, and these stereotypes should simply be discarded.

A study by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation revealed that only 30% of the conditions related to aging are genetic, and that 70% is actually brought about by lifestyle choices. With that in mind, it’s time to bring out these surprising (and definitely rejuvenating) facts about aging successfully:

You can be healthy up to your last days

Contrary to popular thought, majority of senior citizens actually have little functional disability, much of it due to advances in medical care as well as healthier choices in such things like food and lifestyle.

Between now and 2015, it’s estimated that the number of Americans ages 85 and older will increase by as much as 40%. But it’s also estimated that by 2020, only 12 million older Americans-out of an estimated 60-65 million–will be in need of sustained health care.

You can still have an activity-intensive life

A recent media poll established that many retired or elderly individuals do business-related work, engage in community or civic work, or have a regular physical activity schedule.

Another study revealed that in the United States alone, some 15 million older persons actively volunteer in a variety of causes, while some 4-5 million older persons continued to engage in employed or entrepreneurial work.

The unchangeable fact: you can adapt to changes

It’s a proven fact that senior citizens have the capacity to learn new things. Just look at the number of elderly people who utilize things unknown in their youth such as personal computers, laptops, PDAs, cellphones, ATMs, food processors, microwave ovens and the like.

While memory loss is inescapable for many old people, some health experts believe that by constantly adapting to changes and making the most of these changes, the brain’s capacity to remain sharp and alert can be sustained.

Habits can be changed-even when your gray-haired

Despite the endless parade of anti-aging products in the market, the best magic potion out there is free-it’s plain and simple clean living.

Eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, cholesterol-heavy eating and being idle may take time, but it is still time well spent. It’s true that the consequences of unhealthy living increase with age, but the effects can still be lessened once an elderly person makes a sustained effort to change.

Hey, sex is for seniors, too

Physical intimacy isn’t just for the young and restless but also for the old and rested. The continued use of Viagra underscores the fact that for many elderly people, heightened romance still weighs heavily in their hearts.

In fact, as far back as 50 years ago, the landmark Kinsey Report reported that 7 out of 10 men in their late 60s were still having sex with their partners. True, sex drives can wane as one advance in years, but you can always find creative ways of expressing your love to your partner.

Continue to learn!

Education isn’t just confined to the four walls of the classroom-it’s a lifelong process! Gustava Bennett Burrus attended classes at her California school in 2003-when she was in her 90s. She became the oldest person ever to graduate from high school, fulfilling a lifelong dream which was once shattered by childhood poverty.

Today, many older people who were only familiar with pens and typewriters have embraced computer technology, becoming adept at navigating the Net and mastering complex online systems.

You can lead a happy, vibrant life

Old age isn’t necessarily equivalent to being that lonely figure sitting behind a window or worse, a miserable-looking Scrooge.

In fact, growing older can be both rewarding and exhilarating. Many senior citizens avoid loneliness by moving in with others of their age either at private homes or in senior citizen facilities, where they find new social connections and enjoy added learning opportunities. We can’t avoid aging, but we can at least age productively by bonding with others.