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FAMILY LIFE: Senior Musings About Growing Older

Part 1

The pandemic lockdown has afforded me time to reminisce, reflect, and recalibrate how to move forward with the way things are and in the face of uncertainties in the future. As I stand close to the 66th mark in a few months, questions come to mind: how does one navigate growing old and being considered elderly in this new normal? What could help guide me to continue to grow and fare well in the years ahead? In the book “Ourselves, Growing Older,” by Doress and Siegal about women aging with knowledge and power, the authors say that ” we need to focus on the body, the mind, and spirit” to enable us to age gracefully. Readings, research, and experiences convince me that one’s feelings about growing older depend on the condition of these three important aspects of our being. Evaluating ourselves on each of these aspects that make us whole might be helpful regardless of age.

Body Health. I realized that a change in diet and consistent healthy choices helped make the aging years to keep fit despite seemingly hereditary deficiencies. Many things added up to make me unhealthy. Growing up, I was a very picky eater that my mom even had me regularly injected with something to increase my appetite. Typical student life was drinking soft drinks and junk food every recess. I was not into sports and had a sedentary lifestyle of reading or watching TV in those student years. My family history dealt with hypertension, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and kidney failure. Seeing the health challenges my father and brothers had to deal with motivated me to make changes and pursue a healthy lifestyle.

In my mid-twenties, I got interested in nutrition, limited my sweets, and started to eat healthily. In my thirties, I got into aerobic exercise and regularly went to the gym until my forties. In my fifties, my husband got me into regularly playing basketball in our yard and going nature treks and mountain climbing, which I love. We added vitamin supplements to our daily regimen. These lifestyle choices and disciplines have helped me weather menopause with no problem, contributed greatly to aging well, to have the stamina to play and keep pace with our grandchildren when we visit them, and go through the rigors of being a student again in my sixties. Health is indeed wealth. Moving forward in this time of lockdown, I need to work on body flexibility as a necessity to deter body aches of aging bodies that sit too long. I also need to work on increasing my sleeping time as my body clock has gotten used to having just 5 hours of sleep.

Soul Health. I just read a friend’s post and I agree: “You can eat the kale, drink the alkaline water, take the supplements, do pilates or hit the gym. But if you don’t deal with the stuff going on in your heart and mind, you are still unhealthy.” Soul care includes the mental, emotional and psychological aspects of our lives. It helps knowing one’s personality, one’s interests, giftings, and experiences to be secure with one’s person to fare well in our soul health.

I was a slow learner in my younger years and only started getting good grades in high school. Unlike those younger years when the focus was on passing grades instead of learning, my masteral studies in my late 40’s and my Ph.D. studies in my 60’s were meaningful and purposeful in light of my life work where excellent grades were just a by-product. I discovered that I have a thirst for and enjoy learning what interests me, and that timing is also a contributing factor to success. I engaged in these studies at my times of transition in mothering – when children were in college, and then when they got married and lived abroad – and helped me cope with the family changes. Having the attitude of a lifelong learner is good to keep the mind active and makes daily living purposeful. I still have interests and projects I haven’t had time for all these years that I still want to pursue in old age.

Another area of growth that contributed to emotional and psychological health is that of having a good community with close-knit relationships. I am an introvert and could be content doing my own thing. But friends, my family, our organization’s community that is like family, church friends have all shown me how enriching good relationships are. Being intentional about a regular get-together with some of these especially in this time of pandemic that keeps us physically isolated is key to our emotional health.

It’s your turn. How are you in your body health and soul health? (To be continued)

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