What’s Fear Got to Do with It?
What would you say if we asked you what you think your life would be like at 100? For many people, the response is simply that they do not expect to live that long. That answer actually has more to do with what we fear than what we foresee in the future. When we think of living our lives, we want freedom to do the things we want with the people that we love, to go on adventures, to learn new things, to enjoy our lives. The deep fear that we have as human beings is that we will die before we die. That we will somehow still be alive, but cut off from the real living that once made life so good. In fact, studies have shown that people are more afraid of getting dementia than they are of dying. So, perhaps the question should be, what would make us want to live to 100?
Now, to answer this question, we need to first explore our current paradigm for old age. Our stereotypical image of aging is a decrease in abilities and an increase in disabilities and chronic diseases. The truth is that our lifestyle behaviors give us much more power in shaping the way we age than we think. Certainly there are exceptions and genetics has its role as well, but the truth is that the majority of the leading causes of death and premature aging are preventable. People are not just living longer, they are working longer, learning new things longer, engaging in life longer, etc. The baby boomers are redefining what it means and looks like to age. Thanks to modern medicine, we are indeed living longer. The key to building longevity we can look forward to is in taking the long view of our life, health, and well-being. We live in a world that glorifies busyness and mile long to-do lists. Our aspirations and goals for ourselves personally and professionally are both incredible and demanding. Too often our own health and well-being is not even making it onto the to-do list. We might even feel selfish to take that walk after work or invest in better quality food and a higher grocery bill. As a culture, we desperately need to grant ourselves permission to make self-care a priority.
A New Dichotomy of Aging
The term “aging adults” is sort of a misnomer, because the truth is that from birth we are all constantly aging. Aging is not reserved for a select few adults leaving the rest of us immune from the phenomena. We think about childhood as the time for good nutrition and exercise to build a foundation for healthy adult lifestyles. In the same way, we need to think of our adulthood as a time when we are caring for our bodies and preparing them for another important phase of development that Dr. Bill Thomas refers to as, “elderhood”. One of the great problems with aging is that everyone wants to live long, but no one wants to “get old”. Again, this has to do with the dichotomy that we have set up around the way we think about aging: The opposite of old is young. What if the opposite of old wasn’t young, but healthy? What would it look like to carry our health and vitality into our longevity? For starters, it would mean taking much more responsibility of our own health now. As many as 50 million Americans are living sedentary lives and there is a huge cost, not just to the individual, but to society as a whole. For example, individuals with diabetes use over 40% of the healthcare dollars spent by Medicare. We could cut the number of new diabetes cases by 50% if people simply walked 30 (non-consecutive) minutes a day, five days a week.
Caring for the Body as the Self
The influence of Greek thought can be found scattered throughout our western society and one notorious idea is that the mind or self is separate from the body. But we are much more integrated than we can imagine. Our wellness or sickness is lived out in our bodies and we desperately need to care for these miraculous vessels like our life depends upon it. The exciting news is that the body is extremely adaptable. While change may be difficult at first, we are remarkably adept at transformation and redefining normal. What would it look like to create the life you want at 100 starting today? Permission Granted.
Are your aging loved ones living and aging well? A Geriatric Care Manager can play a crucial role in helping them build a life of wellness from nutrition, to medication management, to staying active. Especially after a life event like a surgery or the death of a loved one, everyday activities that keep us well can become increasingly difficult. Fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. Leaning on the professional services of a Care Manager and In-Home Caregiver can make all the difference in the world. Give us a call today to find out more about how we can help your aging loved ones live a life of wellness and well-being. 800,628.7649. For more articles on wellness and aging, visit www.SoundOptions.com/blog/wellness
Published on May 26, 2014.