Tag Archives: how to stay young

Never Regret

The quote today is from Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand author, 1888-1923

Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back.  Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it, it’s only good for wallowing in.

After Robert died and during that time when I didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my life, I spent some time in the UK acting as companion to an elderly widow.  During the time I spent with her we became firm friends, even though she was a peremptory, demanding and often overbearing woman.

Mrs M and Mathilde

We found that we had a lot in common.  We were both independent women although she was years older than me, and had therefore been born in a different time and was of a different generation.

She was a teenager when World War II was declared.  At the time she had been traveling overland by car to Egypt in the company of two young men; one of whom was much later to become her husband. She had been told by the driver that she could accompany them on this journey but could only bring with her a small bag that she would hold at all times on her lap in the ‘dickie’ seat.  I can’t imagine what her father thought of that.

Although I tried on many occasions she wouldn’t allow me to document or record any of her reminisces about her early life.  I know it would have made fascinating reading.  I told her once that she made the Great Gatsby and his crowd sound dull.

She was quite fearless when I knew her, even though her health was breaking down and her mobility was impaired.  She certainly retained all her mental faculties and was another who completed the Times crossword on a daily basis.

And it is she who I have used as role model as I am aging.  She had many young friends, some as much as 30 years her junior.  She kept as active as she could and each time I was with her for a few months, we went out and about almost every day.  We discovered we had much in common.  A love of French film – she had spent long periods of time in Paris up to and after the war and so was fluent in French.  We discovered that we each had a love of the poems of Rupert Brooke, Longfellow, Percy Byshe Shelley and Tennyson.  I also discovered that she too loved the Turner paintings.  Luckily she lived quite close to Petworth House which houses the biggest collection of Turner paintings in the UK.   And I introduced her to Newbolt’s poem “The Fighting Temeraire’  which has been one of my all time favorites since we had to learn it so many years ago at school.

The Fighting Temeraire

So we had plenty to talk about during the long winter afternoons and evenings when we were confined to the house because of the English winter.

She taught me never to excuse or regret so I thought that Katherine Mansfield’s quote quite apt when I think about this lady.  And make no mistake, she was a lady.

She was adamant that she wanted to live on in her own house with a companion and any other helpers for as long as she could; and then she wanted to quietly pass away one night in her sleep.  She had her wish and died in her sleep but unfortunately, not in her own house but in a nursing home a few days after she moved in with her companion.

I think maybe she should also be on my gratitude list, along with my parents for the many things she taught me.  Take a look at my Gratitude List, I have made some additions.

Until tomorrow.

Developing and Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude

Earlier this week I touched on the subject of gratitude.  I am so grateful for all that I have and all the experiences I have had in my life.  I am one of the lucky ones who married early and found the one person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life.

Unfortunately, ill-health took my husband and left me to manage and navigate the rest of my life on my own.  But I am profoundly grateful that I found that one man.

I am grateful for my two adult children and their four strong sons; I am grateful for the support offered by my wonderful family and friends.  I could continue in this vein for pages but that would bore you.

So what I am now suggesting you do is get a piece of paper and write down all the things for which you are grateful.  Don’t forget to add the small things; we all have so many reasons to be grateful.

Here, to get you started is the beginning of a list

  • The warm and dry house that protects me from the elements
  • Wonderful friends
  • My caring and supportive family
  • Fresh water to drink
  • Ability to walk
  • Food to put on the table
  • The money in the bank
  • Living in a free country

Now you get the idea start compiling your own list.  Don’t be surprised if this runs to around a hundred things to be grateful for.

I also tell my family and my clients that you have a gratitude muscle that needs to be exercised just as the other muscles in your body.  Each day take a look at your list and add anything you remember to it. Then at the end of each day write a list of the five things for which you are most grateful.

And even if you have had a bad day, just persevere and you will find some things to be grateful for.

Giving Thanks Each Day

Since I wrote about Mavis Lindgren the 90 year old marathon runner, I have been told of many instances of older folks competing in marathons and one woman Ernestine Shepherd who is a 74 year old body builder.  I am completely ‘blown away’ at what these women do with the ‘best years of their lives’.  And it’s not only women.

Tatsuo Okawara was the oldest finisher from Japan in the December 9th,
2007 Honolulu Marathon.  At 90 years old, he completed the 42.19 kilometers
(26.2 mile) course in 8 hours, 11 minutes.  And Buster Martin at age 101 while still working as a plumber in London, trained for the London Marathon in 2008.  He also planned to walk the Appalachian Trail.  See details of that journey here.

What amazing people and they certainly show us that if you keep using your body and mind through exercise then just about anything is possible.

I often talk to my clients about creating an Attitude of Gratitude.  My children have been brought up knowing that we have to give thanks for what we have and I trust that they are passing that on to their children.

And even if we lose everything, we still have plenty for which to be grateful.  We are fortunate to live in New Zealand surely one of the best and safest  places in the world; although we have had a major earthquake recently that has set us all back a little, but on the whole we live without major disaster looming over us.

So can I suggest that we all look to these ‘older’ examples of how to live our lives and always remember to say thanks for what we have.

Young at Heart

On the subject of being young at heart, have you heard of the group of elders who form the chorus Young at Heart?  If like me, you have heard of them and seen the movie then you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t seen or heard of them, beg, borrow or buy a copy of their DVD.  It is heartwarming and certainly uplifting.  See the trailer here.

This very active ‘gang of seniors’ has taken the world by storm.  They have traveled the world and were even in New Zealand recently although unfortunately, I was unable to get a ticket to see them.

They are so enthusiastic and full of life.  Fred (see the photo here) who was dependent on oxygen to get through his days and had difficulty moving around so spent most of his time in a wheelchair,  got totally into the spirit of the group.

“The current performers in Young@Heart range in age from 73 to 89. There are some with prior professional theater or music experience, others who have performed extensively on the amateur level, and some who never stepped onto a stage before turning eighty. None of the current performers of Y@H were part of the original group that formed in 1982, but they have kept alive the spirit of the early pioneers and continue to push the group into glorious new directions. So says Bob Cilman the man behind this amazing story.

You can meet some of the members of the chorus here

When Bob Cilman and Judith Sharpe organized the Young@Heart (Y@H) in 1982 all of the members lived in an elderly housing project in Northampton, MA called the Walter Salvo House.  Some had lived through both the First and Second World Wars but still felt young enough to enter into the spirit of this amazing adventure.  They will tell you that it has been an adventure.  Many have traveled the world and many of those say they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to travel if it hadn’t been for the chorus.So don’t say you can’t do something because of your age.  Life is an adventure.  Let’s all live it.

I am certainly inspired by these elders and am waiting to see what next awaits me on this journey.

Chronology vs Biology

Ask any of your friends and colleagues if they think aging is something that can be controlled and most will say that nothing  can be done about it, that it simply happens and that’s that.

By now you will know that my answer to that is that they are wrong.  We may be lucky in having good, long life genes but the choices we make throughout our lives have a much greater impact than the genes we have been dealt.

We know that our bodies are continuously replacing cells and that billions of cells are turned over daily.  And for this reason, we need to be careful of the lifestyle choices we make.  As much as possible, we need to ensure that those choices are good and healthy ones because the renewal process works best if we provide the proper nutrients.

Added to this healthy lifestyle of exercise, what, how and when we eat, is the ever-present matter of our mind.

We now know that along with this cell regeneration our brain cells also can regenerate.  Much research has led to this discovery and many learned papers have been written on the subject.

I have no formal medical degree; no degree in neurology and would not presume to discuss this in detail but I am convinced that we can halt the deterioration of our mind, by simply taking care not to let our mind lie idle for any length of time.

My father at age 80 was diagnosed with macular degeneration and was told that he would inevitably go blind.  Now he was one of that older generation used to fending for himself.  He did the crossword every day without fail and as soon as discovered he had this condition he set about (with the help of my sister) training himself to do the crossword even though he would be unable to read the clues or see how the words fitted in.  To do this he would have my sister read the clues and over time became quite adept at completing the crossword.

You see, he had seen how the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease had robbed my mother of the use of her mind and was determined that it wouldn’t happen to him.  I am pleased to report that when he eventually left this earth at age 97 he was in total control of all his faculties.

So here was another example of what I should do with the rest of my life.

There is a difference between our chronological age and our biological age.  Chronological age is determined by calculating the years between the date of our birth and now; biological age is calculated by how old we are perceived to be.  This is based on how we appear, feel and act.  Unfortunately, these age barometers are not often in step.

I certainly don’t feel 72 (my chronological age) and according to those around me I don’t act that age.  So let’s see what we can do to improve our biological age while ignoring our chronological one.

Have you heard of Mavis Lindgren?  She is the 90-year-old marathon runner.  She retired in 1997 after running her 75th marathon.  This from Patrick Roden, A critical care nurse, who was a medical volunteer at the Portland Marathon of 1992 when he came to the aid of the celebrated 85-year-old marathoner, Mavis Lindgren

“What makes her story all the more exceptional to me is that at age 62, Mavis was leading a sedentary life, spending most of time reading, writing and knitting. She had suffered four bouts of pneumonia in five years and, as a retired nurse, she knew the antibiotics weren’t the long-term solution. Something had to change. A doctor urged her to join an early bird walking group. At age 70, encouraged by her son, she ran her first marathon! Two years later, she established a record of 4:33.05, and for the next eight years, held the world’s best time for women 70 and over. And at 84 she finished the Los Angeles Marathon

in 6 hours 45 minutes-the fastest woman in her age category. “After I started running, I never had another cold,” she said”

I am not suggesting that we all become marathon runners, but I do suggest that we take time to look at our sedentary lives and introduce a little exercise into them.