Two readers share what they're doing to increase youth, options and quality of life
Worrying about getting old makes us old. Being terrified of aging ages us perhaps more swiftly than anything. Research shows time and time again that our attitudes about how we age have a huge influence on how we age. When we constantly complain about how old we feel, how decrepit we are, we bring those truths into being. We stoop, slow down, give up, and talk ourselves into an early grave.
Readers regularly share their stories with me which push back against societal discourse and messaging around aging. This study reveals just how fearful we are and how that damages those who are aging:
From the article:
At the center of this marginalization and devaluing of the elderly is the mass media. The mass media has largely become the central nervous system of American society and has a massive impact on people’s values, beliefs, and perceptions  . This has been demonstrated endlessly across research in the social and behavioral sciences and the overall belief is that portrayals of the elderly are largely negative and stereotypical. Common feelings toward the elderly are that they are of low status and incompetent  and this is a common theme running across media representations. The elderly are often depicted as weak, unattractive, and senile. Other cultural stereotypes often seen in the media portray the elderly as frail, feeble, financially distressed, and not contributing to society  .
First of all, as a journalist, this elder abuse, for that is precisely what it is, feeds our overall negative story about the normal, natural aging process. But it sells lots of things, which is the American way. If it sells products, we tell that story, without the slightest regard for who gets hurt as long as there is profit in it.
Well that hurts YOU. Your kids, your family, your loved ones. Age is inevitable, it happens. You can either buy into these ugly stories and deteroriate young, or you can change those conditions. This is why I write.
Here are two more stories, used with permission, which underscore how choice, commitment and a changing mindset can effectively wind back the biological aging clock.
The first, from Medium reader Thomas J. Hennen Jr:
Yesterday my 6 year old granddaughter watched me get up from the floor where we were playing. “Grandpa,” she said, “you get up lots easier now…”.
She could remember me 100 pounds and more than 3 years ago getting up with difficulty. She knows I exercise now. We were in my exercise room that doubles as a playroom for the grandkids. Sometimes they exercise with me. But I have never done my mobility training with them. Getting up is one of the exercises I do most every day.
At 73 I am pleased to have kept those 100 pounds off for the past 15 months. I’m gaining back the muscle I lost in the weight loss process with a fitness coach so I can still lift the grandkids as they grow.
I hope the little “people coming up” are watching how I age and will benefit. Thanks for your article.
Thomas didn't share which "get-up" exercise he does, but I can recommend the best. Turkish get-ups are a multi-part exercise which makes a demand on the whole body, balance and strength. They are superb at all ages, and often take a while to master. Add weights and they are far more challenging. As a result they also are even more beneficial:
This is my favorite demonstration. YES, they are hard. Start without the weights. You will find that they get easier with practice, and the more you do them the stronger your body gets. This is a hugely helpful exercise. For people who are older, this works on balance, body strength, that all-important thigh power which is your "get up" strength.
Start with something easy and preferably with a therapist or trainer. Get the movement down. I've been doing these for a while and I still need tips for there are many parts to getting this right. Highly recommended. A great way to impress the grandkids, too.
Then, I got this from Medium commenter Ann Harrison:
I'm 63 (next week) and I, too, am in training to be old. I work out for an hour a day and walk everywhere. A while ago, I read that one of the markers for frailty is an inability to get up without using your hands, so I make a point of never using my hands when rising from either a chair or the floor. I also spend about 10 mins a day standing on one leg (or the other) to improve my balance (which, in turn, helps with fall prevention). Oh, and if I have to sit for any length of time, I'm constantly in 'fidget mode', working my arms, legs and glutes to avoid the perils of sitting down for too long. (author bolded)
I'm a fan of kaizen - continuous small improvements - so I try to improve my life in some way every single day. Yesterday I solved a storage problem involving 3 quite large items in the apartment that I downsized to 10 months ago. Downsizing and embracing minimalism are two more ways that I'm training to be old and I couldn't be happier with the results that these have brought.
I love Ann's comment about kaizen. The Western compulsion towards immediate transformation is both idiocy and self-defeating. The best changes are those we learn over time and practice so that they become ingrained as habit. We don't overdo it, hurt ourselves or get irritated by the simple fact that big changes don't happen overnight.
You and I can make big changes at any point in life. The attitude that we're too old ages us in seconds. Already the mind, body and spirit align to make us right about how we can't do this, that or the other because we're too old.
The reverse works, too. The moment you decide that you are going to train your mind, body and spirit to be more youthful and energetic, everything inside you aligns for that, as well. That's a choice, not a destiny.
Deterioration begins between our ears. "Early-Onset Elderly" is a term I coined to address the old-at-thirty attitude of so many Millennials. This is how we talk ourselves into old age and decrepitude decades before we might otherwise expect that true old age will have an effect on our brains and bodies.
What will you choose? Dying Young or Living Well Old?