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Park it; Plant it; Pedal it; Preserve it!

17 Nov

I’m freshly returned from attending an ICAA conference (International Council on Active Aging). The topics (as probably can be discerned by the name of the conference) focused on the benefits of exercise and activity on the aging process. “Sitting Is the New Smoking” was a quote I heard cited from a Huffington Post article. Activity promotes wellness and brain health and contributes to quality of life and longevity. Considering the conference was held at the Orange County Convention Center, a virtual city unto itself requiring considerable exertion just to get from parking my car to parking my self, I felt positively virtuous about the amount of exercise I had undergone just to get to my chair. As an aging Baby Boomer, this information has great salience to me. We are expecting our second grandchild and I want to be around for a while to enjoy them.

So, with active aging on my brain, I thought about one of my very favorite pastimes- bicycling. Biking is the ultimate multi-task enabler (and as a crazed Lady Boomer that’s important!) (1) it provides a mode of transportation enabling you to get to a desired destination; (2) it is great exercise, (3) you are outside, (4) you help protect our planet from noxious carbon emissions, and (5) IT’S FUN!   So, with improved health and protecting the environment in mind, why not park that car and ride your bike? Driving is boring and fraught with hassles. Put saddlebags on your bike for shopping- only buy as much as your bags will hold (a surprising amount by the way). My husband and I have managed to fit as much as $180 worth of groceries in our saddle bags at one time. People have laughed and waved as we careen around the corner with a 12 pack of Miller Lite in tow. Biking makes everyday chores more fun and helps preserve the earth for future generations (even more important to me now with an impending birth around the corner). So, park it, plant it, pedal it, preserve it!

Park it; Plant it; Pedal it; Preserve it!

Park it; Plant it; Pedal it; Preserve it!

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I’m On My Next to the Last Dog

31 Mar

A few weeks ago I attended a conference on positive aging. As a Baby Boomer I have an acute interest in what aging looks like in the future.  A key theme of the conference was positive and purposeful aging. I kept hearing 60 is the new 40 (music to my ears since I turned 60 this year).  Speaker, Marc Freeedman, CEO of Encore.org., called for a new paradigm on aging.  He took issue with statements saying later life is just a pale imitation of our earlier lives. He argues against retirement communities where residents are surrounded exclusively by the aged rather than a variety of ages.

I have been struck by the fact no one has yet managed to concoct e a satisfactory label for our post middle age years.   At the conference I heard references to… “The vintage Years” (hated it); “Act 3 or Chapter 3” (not a fan); “the afternoon of our lives” (nah).  Freedman suggested the following, “I’m on my next to the last dog.” Any way we can approach aging joints and our sense of mortality with humor, has great appeal to me. Freedman also suggested a “Gap Year for Grownups”.  As the mother of children who took more than a few gap years to find themselves between college and careers, I think a gap year to help us transition to later life and try out new roles is a splendid notion.

Now back to this concept of purposeful aging. Conference speakers emphasized the importance of identifying a purpose in our lives, how older people with a purpose and meaning are 2.4 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.  So, how do we go about identifying our purpose for our next to the last dog years? Victor Strecher, Ph.D. at University of Michigan’s school of public health suggests the following exercise:

 Identify your core values.  For example, which of the following 4 values resonates the most with you- kindness, security, expertise, achievement, spirituality, creativity, vitality, tradition, self control, responsibility, independence, and enjoyment? Now, write a sentence personalizing these values, i.e. Vitality- “My health, vigor, and energy are essential in helping me navigate my life.”  Once you have written a specific statement for each value, write a paragraph weaving these 4 or 5 concepts into a Statement of Purpose.  This Statement of Purpose can serve as a guide helping you make choices about how and where you want to spend your time, energy and resources.

I would love for you to share your Statements of Purpose below in the comments section.  Send them to losethebeige@gmail.com if you would rather have me post them for you.  Happy envisioning.strecher

Growing Bolder Not Older

22 Sep

I am honored to have participated in an interview with Growing Bolder’s Marc Middlleton and Bill Shafer.   Growing Bolder is the perfect place for Boomers.  Click here to listen. Growing Bolder

 

 

Ageism Calls for an Attitude Adjustment

18 Sep

Anyone reading our blog of late has probably concluded I’m obsessed with turning 60.  Now while that might be an exaggeration, I am more likely to read articles and pay attention to news shows featuring the topic of aging.  That is why I read with interest an article in the New York Times last Sunday by Peggy Klaus called, Embrace Your Age and Conquer the World I don’t know about conquering the world so much, but maybe conquering my own world would be a worthy pursuit.  Klaus argues that in spite of, or perhaps because of, ageism (discrimination based on age) we Baby Boomers should “start to own, even embrace, how old we are”.  She says it’s the perfect time for a major cultural attitude adjustment.  Hmmm, maybe this aging thing just got a lot better, I thought to myself.

Klaus cited a Northwestern University study in which the author opined that people who are 55 and even 65 have more innovation potential than 25 year olds.  Benjamin Jones noted in a paper titled, “Age and Great Invention” there has been a large upward trend in the age at which innovators begin their active careers.

A CBS Morning Show last week featured Jeffrey Kluger of Time  Magazine in a segment called “Awesome Aging”.  Kluger contends creativity increases with age.  He referenced studies that have found the brain continues to grow in those areas involving creativity. The very deterioration we dread actually enhances creativity.  Kluger says, “The walls break down.  It’s no longer language in the left hemisphere and art in the right.  There is a free flow of information back and forth.”  He added, “Wisdom is a bi-product of creativity.  What is wisdom but creative thinking?”  This must be why Frank Lloyd Wright, Pablo Picasso, and even Galileo did some of their best work in their 80s.

I can’t tell you how affirming these two articles are.  Creativity is a central thesis of Be Brave. Lose the Beige (our blogsite and book title).  We go so far as to urge people to “exercise” their creative muscles.  As adults, we have come to recognize the validity of exercising our bodies and minds, but somehow, once we get past the age of ten, we often pay less attention to our creative muscles.  And, just like physical muscles that fail to be engaged, so can our creative muscles begin to atrophy.  Creativity is not just about participating in the visual or performing arts.  It’s a way of thinking about and approaching one’s life, a way of viewing the world.  It’s doing mundane things in a novel way.  Even a little creative thinking can produce seismic changes in our lives.

While I have always enjoyed participating in creative activities, I’m feeling as though I’m on creativity steroids at this point in my life (at age 60).  My brain is a virtual popcorn machine with new ideas/creative thoughts continuously popping up (probably more because of my ADD brain).  My husband and I consider ourselves entrepreneurs.  I think we must conceive of new business ideas every other day.  The process of conception (much like in the other kind of conception process) is the fun part– the brain storming process; the excitement of a new idea; the hope of making the idea an income producing one…

So, I agree with Peggy Klaus.  This is a perfect time for a major cultural attitude adjustment, and let’s start with us-  the Boomer Generation.  After all, there are a lot of us- 80 million to be precise.  Rumor has it over half of us will celebrate our 100th birthday and beyond.   How do you plan to creatively spend these next 20, 30, or 40 years.

Aging

Naval Gazing at 60

16 Sep

I solemnly promise this is the final installment of my “turning 60” naval gazing (a reference I should refrain from making since the image of someone contemplating their 60 year old naval is the antithesis of attractive).  Speaking of 60 year old body parts, however, part of my contemplation has revolved around a sense of gratitude for most of mine.   Aging certainly is accompanied by its share of aches and pains.  My constant refrain is, “Aging is not for sissies.”

Six years ago I read a book entitled, Younger Next Year wherein the author, Chris Crowley, maintains the key to turning back our biological clock is exercise.  I was so persuaded by his arguments that, even before finishing the book, I joined the YMCA.   (Didn’t that Village People’s song just pop into your head?)  Six years hence, I do feel stronger and fitter than I did when I turned 50.  While muscle definition has been a bi-product of this process, it wasn’t my first goal.  Flexibility and joint protection were the ultimate goals.  Hopefully that will hold as I crest into my 70s and 80s (optimistic aren’t I?)

I was descending a staircase at a favorite restaurant last weekend and paused to acknowledge my ability to do so.  Scooting quickly across a busy intersection I was struck by the sight of someone in a wheel chair who was not able to move as quickly and ably.  Riding my beloved bicycle to the grocery store made me grateful for my balance and energy level.  I spend so much time multi-tasking and in a state of impatience running hither and yon that I generally fail to appreciate the fact I am capable of executing all these tasks.  My resolution after reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin is to begin a gratitude journal in which I write at least one thing I’m grateful for each day.  I’m hoping this will help me practice mindfulness, which just may be the meaning of life.  At the top of my list will be my physical and mental health and fitness.

Age Is Like Art-It’s a Matter of Interpretation

5 Jul

“Age is like art — it’s a matter of interpretation.”  —  Nancy Pelosi, Democratic minority leader in the House of Representatives.   Pelosi made this statement in a New York Times article entitled, “Republicans Paint Clinton (Hillary) As Old News For the 2016 Presidential Election”.  In spite of the fact Bill Clinton effectively employed the same strategy against Bush Sr. and Bob Dole, Republicans may be venturing into dangerous territory with this message.  There are almost 80 million baby boomers in this country (of which Clinton is a part).  And they vote.

As much as I enjoy politics, it was Nancy Pelosi’s statement that grabbed me, however.  I love art and I’m definitely aging, evidenced by the fact I will be 60 in 12 days.   Fine art (or even fun art) is definitely subjective and the appreciation is up to interpretation.  So it is with age- whose to say what 50, 60, or 100 looks like any more?  I remember watching the 1967 film, Barefoot In the Park a few years ago.  The movie starred  Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.  Fonda’s movie mother looked positively matronly at 50ish, and slept with a board underneath her mattress because of her bad back.  Fifty+ looks a lot different today.  There is certainly a higher cool quotient among this age category than there was 46 years ago when this movie was made.

So yes, I would argue Nancy Pelosi is correct- age is up to interpretation and I think  many Baby Boomers will interpret it a lot differently than did our parents.  I find that comforting and quite exciting.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

New Year’s Resolution #6- Try Taking Mini-Adventures

14 Dec

This is post #6 of Be Brave. Lose the Beige’s 12 days of New Years Resolutions.

Adventures dont always have to be big and bold. Who said the definition of adventure is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or back packing through Europe? Adventures come in many sizes and forms and help us feel young all over again. As we age into our 50s, 60s and 70s, lets take a sip or two from the Fountain of Youth, at least on occasion.

The other night my husband and I hopped on our bikes and rode to the grocery store. The night was beautiful, the air cool, and the stars luminous. We did not exactly look hip and cool bundled up and helmeted with our flashing bike lights. We did, however, feel exhilarated in the cold air and just a little daring venturing out late on a school” night.

Friends later chided us saying, Why didnt you just take the car? That would have been easier and safer!Convenience was not the point I responded. Dont you remember that feeling of freedom you experienced as a kid when you jumped on your only means of transportation- your bicycle- managing to escape from parental oversight and control? I harken back to that time and feeling often when I ride my bicycle.

So, go ahead, dip your toe into that Fountain of Youth a few times in the coming year. Try something even just a little bit out of your comfort zone. Maybe learning to do something you have never done before, such as snow skiing. Even if you dont ever leave the Bunny Slope, you will be thrilled and proud of your adventurous self.