Article posted on mcall.com on May 11, 2015. Click here to view.
May is Older Americans Month, something to celebrate and a time to reflect on what is really going on in our lives as the decades pile on.
Ever wonder why some people seem to be almost ageless? Long after retirement, they engage others with gusto, move quickly, and have a sharp mind, a quick wit and a twinkle in their eye. Well, it is probably not genetics. It is probably lifestyle — how they learned to interact along their journey in life.
What we do, what we eat, and what we think have an impact on ourselves greater than most of us realize. Each day is another opportunity to choose to live better. At any time in our lives we can change and improve all of those areas and more, no matter what our age. Research has repeatedly confirmed what most of us know intuitively: We can transform ourselves in ways great and small.
Stand up straight and walk with purpose, and in two minutes testosterone levels in your blood increase and you feel more powerful, useful and ready for action. Lift a weight and your muscles get stronger. Park in the back of the lot, walk farther to the store and your cardiovascular system improves. Do a crossword puzzle and create new brain cells. Be with other people, and you are less likely to catch a cold.
Think of yourself as someone who is aging well, and you will. Really? If you follow the research, the answer is yes!
Are you forgetful sometimes? Exercise and the increased blood flow brought on by movement improve brain function.
Feel bloated and lethargic? Processed foods can promote inflammation, which hurts organs and blood vessels. Eat fresh foods that have not been altered as often as possible.
Feeling down? Social isolation is the No. 2 predictor of morbidity and mortality within one year. The only thing higher is chain smoking. So say hello to your neighbor, greet those you pass by, help someone in need, join a group, participate in an activity, or volunteer. A study in 1997 found that the best predictor of which elementary students will learn to play an instrument well were those who thought of themselves as musicians, not those who practiced the most.
Shy or bold. Powerful or weak. Social butterfly or wallflower. Wherever we find ourselves we can begin to be the person we want to be — healthier, less afraid, and a difference-maker. Those who read a daily newspaper are a step ahead of the average person, for you already have discipline, curiosity and an interest in learning. That is the foundation for change and growth.
Try it. Take the steps and skip the elevator. Smile and say hello when a stranger passes by. Take the first parking space you see, not the closest. Stand tall. Raise your hand and volunteer. Join something. Reflect on your self-perception and realize the power it has over you. Change it if necessary to be who you want to be.
Lehigh Valley Active Life is a senior community center at 1633 W. Elm St., Allentown, that welcomes people to join their neighbors who are already members. Together we will all live a better life and create a better community.
Rick Daugherty is executive director of Lehigh Valley Active Life, formerly known as Lehigh County Senior Center.
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