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Welcome to the Wisdom Years

Mike 2

By Michael Dorfman

I think that we can agree that most elderly people in the West don’t like to talk about age, especially once they get into their 70s (I’m 77). They may even say they’re younger than their actual chronological age. How many actors and actresses get countless surgeries in an attempt to turn back the clock, aka “The Benjamin Button syndrome”? And of course, if they do it, why not the rest of us?

In contrast, among populations where people are healthier and live longer, advanced age is considered a status symbol—it’s a time when the aged garner respect from the young—a time when the elders are greatly respected and admired for their wisdom, which comes from a lifetime of experience and accumulation of knowledge. In fact, reaching a ripe old age is considered a status symbol in certain Eastern societies  like China, Japan, and India and in the “Blue Zone” populations  of Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; and Nicoya, Costa Rica. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that way here?

I believe it’s time to escape the trap of this Western concept of old age, which tells us that getting old is a disaster, and begin to look at advanced age as the “Wisdom Years.” How do we do this? As a start, we should take our health and well-being into our own hands and stop believing other people’s preconceived ideas about aging. For the most part, these ideas were formulated by people younger than us who have no idea what it means to be old, just like we didn’t understand our parents when we were younger. I also know this because I have two sons, aged 48 and 42. They haven’t got a clue.

So, what do the healthiest and longest-living populations have in common?

–A different attitude toward aging

–A healthy diet based mostly on vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds

–Daily exercise—walking, running, hiking, swimming, dancing, etc.

–Staying active

–Stress and depression reduction through meditation, yoga, tai chi, martial arts, exercise, dancing

–Strong community relationships

–Finding a purpose for living

–A feeling of pleasure and sensuality from living in a healthy body

–Confidence in one’s health and physical capabilities

Being young has its blessings. We know that because we experienced them when we were younger. Getting old has its blessings too, like wisdom and understanding from a lifetime of learning, and because of them we have the opportunity not only to experience them but to share what we have learned with our peers and with the younger generations. The caveat is that in order to have this opportunity, we need to be physically and mentally healthy. Fortunately, the keys for success (see above) have been gifted to us by the elders who represent the healthiest and longest-living populations on the planet. All we need to do is accept their wisdom and put it into practice.

 

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