Is aging gracefully an oxymoron? Shouldn't we be raging against the night, to paraphrase an Irish poet?
I am 64, just started Social Security, and I am married to Julie, 15 years my junior, and I have an 14 year old son, Shane, and a 8 year old daughter, Hannah Marie.
My sister sent me an e-mail earlier this week including two video performances 50 years apart of a band called the Diamonds doing a song called "Little Darlin", I believe, and I felt a strong nostalgia for that time of my life when I heard the music, when my adventure was beginning, and that nostalgia has been a significant part of my emotional landscape in recent years, even as I handle the day to day aspects of being a Dad, and a husband, and a business partner to Julie.
There are dishes and laundry to do, and horn practice, and emotional meltdowns to handle, (some by the kids) and all the discussions that happen between husband and wife about holiday celebrations, which involve a certain level of stress, and then there are moments of appreciation for the beauty of our neighborhood and our safety and opportunity.
And then there are memories of parents and grandparents, and old friends from childhood scattered to the winds, and a longing to know what happened to them, and a thought about going upstairs to wake Julie before the kids get up, because who knows how long I (or she) will be around and I want her to know how much I love her. But instead, I am diligently building my new career.
And from my perspective, and supposedly, we older folks are better at seeing the big picture, I think about the incredible changes in the United States over the last 50 years, from the Kennedy assassination to Barack Obama.
Wait, did I just mention building a new career as an online entreprenuer?
I did, and that is perhaps the most important aspect of my aging gracefully.
Thirty years ago, I found myself in a situation where I had to chose to start over or die, and I did start over, and that is the most important lesson in aging gracefully for me.
I can start over even if I lose everything external to myself.
Part of that starting over involved some steps that needed to be repeated frequently, if not every day, so I learned to schedule regular practice, and as my new life unfolded, I undertook some other regularly scheduled practices which have impacted my ability particularly to be a Dad to small children, in other words, physical exercise, so that I can fling them around, or wrestle with the boy when he needs it.
So I have taken this experience of starting over and reiterated it several times, as a mid-life career changer, a late life father, and now as an online entrepreneur at 62. Some would say I have ADD, but I think I am flexible, and a book I read a couple of years ago, called The Brain That Changes Itself, backs me up.
Not too many years ago, no one knew of a concept called neurogenesis, which means that the brain grows new neurons, if I make the garden fertile, so to speak, so I see no reason not attend to the pillars of brain fitness which is what it takes to bring those replacement parts online.
Norman Doidge,MD, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, pointed me down a brand avenue of exploration, which is another of the pillars, novel learning experience.
Yes, if you want to age gracefully, then taking care of the pillars of brain fitness, which are physical exercise, good nutrition including lots of anti-oxidants and omega 3 fatty acid, good sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences, are very important.
Taking care of those pillars keeps the brain growing new neurons, and forming new connections between neurons, so you will remember all those words you have learned at the moment you need them rather than hours later.
One of the things that Evans and Burghardt discuss is the dual n back task, and how research shows that regular practice of that can increase what is called fluid intelligence at any age.
Increased IQ? That will show them, won't it? There are some computerized brain fitness tools out there that I have tried and like. Links to them are just below. The Posit Science Brain Fitness Program has been researched in the IMPACT study, and I recommend that you read that study to expand your aging gracefully brain fitness file and remember the lyrics to all those anthems from your youth. (I am really starting to appreciate Tommy Dorsey).
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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