“If every day is an awakening, you will never grow old. You will just keep growing.” – Gail Sheehy

 

What is your perception of aging? Do you see aging as an awakening, as Gail Sheehy states? Can you acknowledge the occasional “wear and tear” on your body but reframe it in a positive way? I asked friends to describe what they liked about getting older; some people mentioned feeling more comfortable in their bodies as they aged. Some friends noted that as they have aged, they are more comfortable speaking up and stating an opinion. Others told me, after witnessing the death of loved ones, they clearly saw that life is short and precious and that small gestures of kindness and love often have had the biggest impact on their lives.

It isn’t difficult to read articles in the medical literature about aging that chronicle a gloomy erosion of health and wellness. But consider these aging facts:

  • Mammography is a more effective and sensitive screen in our aging breasts. As the connective tissue and milk ducts and glands are replaced by fatty tissue, the lower breast density improves the accuracy of the mammography screen. Also, less compression and less radiation is needed to adequately screen the less dense breasts. The next time you notice that “sag” in the mirror, smile and know it is a positive development!
  • The cyclic hormonal fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone throughout our reproductive lives are eventually replaced by a low level of hormones with less of a fluctuation; this results in fewer menstrual migraines and less premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Better yet, we know that that lifestyle modifications in the area of nutrition, stress management and exercise work well in our bodies at any age! There are now several studies that show that regular walking or exercises with weights will increase bone density in postmenopausal women.

Dan Buettner, in his book The Blue Zones, looked at areas of the world where a higher percentage of the population live longer and healthier lives. Places like Okinawa, Sardinia, Loma Linda and Costa Rica all had “pockets of longevity” where people lived well into their 90’s without major illnesses. In studying these areas, Buettner noted several lifestyle similarities among these diverse ethnic groups including: eating more vegetables versus protein and processed foods, drinking red wine in moderation, a regular spiritual practice or religious participation, regular exercise or daily movement, having a healthy social network, regular vacations and making family a priority.

Maybe all of that is the definition of “making every day an awakening!”