request info email to friend
Making Peace with Age
You've said it before, and you no doubt will say it again: Getting old is tough. You can't do the things you used to do with ease. And when you try, you end up in pain. You worry that you are becoming useless. But feeling frustrated is not the answer. Instead, learn to listen to your body and your mind, and make the adaptations you need to stay active and involved in the things you love.
First, of course, discuss your concerns with your doctor. Many problems related to aging can be successfully treated, and there is no reason you should suffer unnecessarily. An honest, open relationship with your doctor can go a long way toward getting you back on track, or keeping you there.
As you age, you have to work a little harder to take care of yourself. Baseball's Roger Clemens notwithstanding, most people cannot do at 40 what they did at 20. But that does not mean you should do nothing. Many of the aches and pains associated with aging, such as minor osteoarthritis, are improved by physical activity. Just use some common sense.
Don't forget to stretch. Maybe 20 years ago you could run out your front door and keep going for five miles. Even then it probably was not a good idea, but if you try that now, you may pull up lame after a couple of blocks. Take time to stretch out thoroughly before physical activity, and don't forget to cool down and stretch again when you are finished.
Make adjustments. For example, if you have trouble running the same distance and pace you used to, try slowing down a little or not running quite as far. Focus on getting your heart beating at your target rate for a specific number of minutes, regardless of how fast or far you go to get there.
You might try some different activities. If you have been running for years and find it hurts your knees, try biking some days. Or be creative and take a class in ballroom dancing. Swimming is an excellent way to get your aerobic exercise without putting too much pressure on your joints. If you are unsure about an activity, take a class to see if you like it and to learn to do it correctly.
If you enjoy participating in organized – or semi-organized – sports, seek out opportunities in your own age group. Check with your local park district for over-40 or over-50 leagues, for example. As an additional benefit, you may find that you have more in common with these groups.
Give yourself a mental workout, too. Many people feel that as they age they lose some mental sharpness, become more forgetful or have a harder time focusing. You may be worried that these symptoms mean you are becoming senile. Talk with your doctor about your concerns. But if you are just experiencing normal aging, there are some things you can do.
Keep your mind active. Just as exercise can help you stave off some physical deterioration, keeping your mind busy can help you stay sharp. Read books, do the crossword puzzle, watch "Jeopardy." The important thing is to keep thinking.
And don't neglect your emotional needs. Midlife crisis is the fodder of countless jokes, but for many people, it is no laughing matter. You may feel restless or blue, wondering whether you have accomplished enough or worrying about what you are going to do with the second half of your life. Talk to your doctor if you are feeling particularly unhappy; depression is a serious problem in older people, but it can be treated successfully.
For normal aging blues, find something that interests you and embrace it. This might be a good time to start or join a book club, for example. Take a class or pursue a hobby you have been thinking about.
Do good. Volunteer -- a little or a lot. Do whatever you like; the possibilities are almost endless. Read to preschoolers, work at a soup kitchen, tutor high school students, coach youth sports.
Finally, enjoy your life. Spend time with your children and grandchildren. Visit friends you have not seen in a while. Travel. Plan for your retirement. Celebrate what you have accomplished, and get excited about your vision for the future.