The Art of Getting old
and it's not as easy as it looks
The journey to being old begins when you are born. The pace is so slow that it is difficult to measure in real time but easily measured by life events such as the death of a loved one, birth of children, birthdays, marriages and divorces, etc. The definition of old is not easily found but in general an old person is anyone who is 10 years older than you and therefore you are old to someone 10 years your junior. It turns out to be a relative thing that is continuously adjusting to who you are around.
There are many names for the old, aged, ancient, elderly, geriatric, long-lived, over-the-hill, senescent and senior. Depending on the person being tagged, one of more of these synonyms may apply. Then the sentence structure and tone can make these descriptions joyful or derogatory in nature. Getting old is truly a gift from the almighty that is not granted to everyone. Some of us expire as stillborn infants while the majority live to be in their 70's to 90's and there are a multitude of pitfalls to stop the getting older process along the way. Accidents, disease, war and a plethora of other things that tend to shorten our years and prevent living a longer life. That will include bad personal habits, genetic health problems and to say it in a short sentence, "People are their own worst enemies."
Young People Are Invincible
Young people do not think about being old because in their view getting old is "automatic" with little to no effort involved. Many have the feeling of invincibility in their youth and that bad things only happen to "old" people when in effect that is not true at all. As I've described already old can be terminated by death at any point. We are all aware of that fact but very few people actually do anything about it and there are things you can do to prevent death and enhance life. When you question someone on why they smoke the stock answer is, “I have to die from something.”
So "old" sneaks up on everyone and is only noticed when a person does something that he / she used to do easily but now is a lot harder to do. Take professional sports figures for instance. Pro football players really give their bodies a beating during their careers and when most of them reach their 50's and older they cannot walk without the assistance of a walker. Many other sports that require a lot of physical contact or performance from their bodies suffer the same result. As a rule they do not live long healthy lives after their younger productive years.
It's Not All Bad
If you've managed to survive all of the hazards along the way there are many perks available for the old. If you've made the correct career decisions there should be a nice pension waiting for you to retire on. That provides you with a nice paycheck every month without even leaving the lazy boy recliner. Even if that doesn't happen for you because of a million and one reasons there is always Social Security. You may not be able to travel the world with that but it will provide for your basic needs.
If you've been paying attention to life along the way you should possess a world of knowledge, even if you did not go to college. Life experiences are your most valuable asset and there are people of all ages who would like to tap into that vast resource. Seniors are frequently awarded discounts these days at business's but I bet that you did not know that you need to ask for the "senior discount" or you may not get it. A lot of those senior discounts are not advertised.
The Dark Side of Old
You have traveled many roads on your journey to being old and not all of them were paved, leaving you in a lot of pain or possibly wheel chair bound or having to depend on others for many things. I agree, that is not a pretty thought but that happens to many. You may be unable to leave your own home to even buy groceries and be dependent on a lot of expensive drugs just so you can continue to exist.
There are other things on the dark side. Even if you are healthy and would like to be productive again with a job. You are physically capable of working a job with light duties but when you apply for that job or any job you will find the ugly head of discrimination popping up against you because of your age. While discrimination is illegal in employment an employer can still do it without raising anyone's eyebrows but yours. They don't have to explain their actions, they just don't hire you and it’s because of your age that you are automatically discounted as "less useful." In their defense they are looking for the best person to fill that position. You just didn't fill the bill.
Are You Getting Old Wrong?
And How To Fix That
You are not alone on your journey to being old. Most people are getting old wrong because of their poor choices in life. Cigarettes, alcohol, illegal and legal drugs all play an important part in the aging process. Diet and exercise are the well-known remedies for staying healthy into your "Golden Years" but that requires a lot of dedication and that leaves most people on the outside looking in. It is far too easy to just sit down and do nothing.
Fix #1. Positive attitude. It is important that you accept the natural changes brought about by age. You don't have to defeat those changes but you must learn to live with them in a positive manner. If all you can move is your arms or legs then that is what you work with. With perseverance on your side you can accomplish anything. Remember the glass is always half full. My wife said to me one day, "You are getting old." I said, "I know I've been ignoring it."
Fix #2. Don't go with stereotypes about aging and accepting such ideas as, "You are less useful." That causes stress and the “Woe is me” attitude. Thinking about the good days and years ahead will actually help you live longer.
Fix #3. Diet is very important in all of this but basically it's not what you are eating but how much are you eating. There are of course dietary restrictions because you must eat food that is good for your body, not food that tastes very good. Now I'm sure that some of you out there are overweight to some extent and that will impair all of the other fixes listed. You must find the motivation to get that under control and I understand just how hard that is to do. So start with fix number one and work on a good positive mental attitude first to get you in the right frame of mind. If you can do that everything else should fall into line. Check with you doctor before making any dietary decisions.
Fix #4. Stay as active as you can. You cannot work for 30 years at a job then retire and do nothing but sit in your recliner. Inactivity is a sure recipe for an early trip to be the guest of honor at your local funeral home. Even if you are infirmed and weak you must find a way to keep moving. It is well known that the Grim Reaper cannot hit a moving target. It is okay to rest between sessions because you may not be used to much activity but remember when that recliner feels so comfortable that's the Grim Reaper whispering in your ear saying, "It's okay to just sit here all day, every day and do nothing." If that is what you want to do then they will be throwing dirt in your face real soon. Steven Wright, a famous comedian once said, “My doctor told me to quit exercising until I get in better shape.”
Fix #5. Optimism has been linked to living a lot longer. A great outlook on life every day will assist you in eating better and whatever activity you can do. Remember, any day that you wake up no matter what is going on in your life is a great day. It is a proven fact that pessimists do not live as long as optimists and most people do not like pessimists anyway. Aging is all in your mind so get your head on straight and find things to be happy about. “It’s not the water outside the boat that makes it sink, it’s the water inside the boat that takes it to the bottom.”
Fix #6. You will know when you are old when you realize things are different and you must make adjustments to your life. My favorite thought is, “Yes, I can pick up that 100 lb. item but I’m not going to.” We are all guilty of doing what we’ve always done in our lives without thinking. Most injuries to men and women who are older, are caused by things that they should not be doing. My own example is I’m 75 years old and I recently was doing house maintenance on a ladder and I have two artificial hips. Not smart at all but luckily nothing happened.
Fix #7. Don't give up. If you've come this far with me don't cave in and go back to your old ways. You owe it to yourself and your family to "live a long life and be happy doing it." This last fix will be the hardest to do but the more you work on the first 6 fixes the easier it will be to stick with it. If you lose your focus, always go back to Fix #1 and start over.
The path to a long life is before you and I challenge you to do it. The ball is now in your court, take the shot and you will not miss it.
William O’Neal Stringer
I retired from the EJ&E Railroad after 33 years of service as locomotive engineer and I've written a book about my experiences. I've been an avid reader my entire life and even owned 4 used book stores at one time.
I'm a published author.