Long live the aging goddesses

Live long and healthy by AGEING: Attitude, genes, exercise, interests, nutrition, get rid of smoking

I am an aging goddess.

Well, that’s according to the Victoria Goddess Race committee. In fact, I am one of 1,000 aging goddesses who partook in the inaugural Victoria Goddess 10K run last Sunday.

I thought the term “aging goddess” was much more complimentary than the reality — “slightly overweight, seven minutes slower but wiser 40-year-old 10-kilometre runner!”

Armed in goddess wear, a 1980s silver and black gown, I set out with three other aging goddesses (also in equally stunning gowns) at the start line. Not overly concerned about my pace, I set out to simply enjoy the race.

One of the most rewarding aspects of participating in races (outside of the post-race goodies) is the people you meet along the way and the stories they bring with them. This day would prove to be no exception.

At about the five-kilometre mark, a runner, who looked twice my age, passed me. Never one to pass up a personal challenge or to save face, I gritted my teeth and increased my stride to see what my legs held.

As I gasped my way beside her, I struck up a friendly conversation hoping that I’d be doing most of the listening.

Margaret (who happily informed me she was 72 years old) and I ran for about a third of the race together. I listened to how she took up running at age 62 as a result of her husband dying from a massive heart attack and marvelled at her “bucket list” including going back to school and travelling to one new country each year.

I gained inspiration from her ability to overcome the adversity of the death of her youngest daughter and soaked up as much of her positive energy and human sunshine as I could.

I asked her how she would define “successful aging” to younger generations. To her, aging successfully was about reaching new heights regardless of age and health, to strive towards a personal best in a 10 K this year and adapting and staying positive despite changes in her health.

And with that, she increased her stride and left me in her dust.

It seems fitting to leave you with a “an oldie but a goodie” unpublished keynote presentation by Thomas Perls from a gerontology conference 10 years old listing six key ways to live a long and successful life, listed by the acronym AGEING.

Attitude: Be optimistic, assertive, outgoing and sociable.

Genes: Choose your parents well: 30 per cent of aging is due to genetic makeup.

Exercise: Regular physical activity contributes to vitality and quality of life.

Interests: Do new and different things, especially things that challenge you intellectually, to keep your mind in shape.

Nutrition: Eat nutritious food and maintain a healthy body weight. A little alcohol is good, too.

Get rid of smoking: This is very important; a few people are not affected by smoking, but most smokers live shorter and sicker lives.

Long live the aging goddesses!

(Curious about what an aging goddess looks like? See one up close and personal at http://keystoneeldercare.com/blog).

Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.

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