Want to know how to stop aging?
Stop living. I mean it. Literally.
The only way to stop aging is to die.
From a figurative point of view, the best way to stop aging is of course to live, by embracing age, on our own terms and to continue finding meaning through activities, connections and giving back despite some of the physical, emotional and social changes that come with age.
Whether you are 84 or in my case 44, age successfully. You get to define what that means. Whether it is singing, writing, drawing, walking, volunteering, gardening, socializing, or in my case staying fit and active through sport, keep doing what makes you happy, gives your life meaning and firing our all important neurons.
I may not move like I did in my 20s or 30s (although in my mind, I am just as speedy) and I certainly can’t dribble or shoot like I used to, playing in the Americas Masters Games 2016 in Vancouver with old teammates and meeting new teammates was food for my soul, mind and body. Admittedly, my tooshie was very, very sore!
Many of us might think we don’t need to worry about aging until we hit our 70s or 80s. I disagree. Face reality folks. All of us are aging every day.
But that doesn’t mean age has to define us or we throw our hands up in the air and say, “Well, I guess it is all downhill from here,” or that we shift our focus to the more negative aspects we can associate with age – retirement, grey hair, less energy, changes in short term memory, etc.
Meet Mrs. Mulcaster. This is us hiking up in Paradise Meadows in August 2016. Although Isabel is almost 95 years old and she’s had some changes in her memory loss and balance, she continues to embrace her age and still gets out on the trails despite some limitations.
As a gerontologist, one area we tend to practise is seeing aging with a strength lens. What are someone’s assets, resources, and abilities and how do we use them to keep them independent, to improve in some areas and to support them in getting from A to B?
Research also shows the more we use our strengths during the day, the better we handle less desirable emotions (stress, anger, worry, anxiety, frustrations) or pain. All emotions can sometimes present themselves when we experience losses due to age or life transitions. Focusing on strengths leads to increased feelings of purposefulness and overall well-being.
What we do, how we act and how we think about aging in our 40s, 50s, and 60s plays an enormous and crucial role in our more advanced years to stay independent, connected, engaged and fulfilled.
So what are you going to do today to age on your terms and successfully?
Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs regularly in the Comox Valley Record.