Aging, a state of mind

I recently came across an article on the Blackstone Blog titled Blackstone’s Byron Wien Discusses Lessons Learned in His First 80 Years. There are 20 lessons in total, some which are obvious, some which are good rules to live by, and others which are personal observations and opinions. I highly recommend that you read the article as there are takeaways for people of all ages.¬†Anyway, the article got me to thinking about my philosophy towards aging.

I’ve been lucky enough to know a few octogenarians and nonagenarians. From my observations and interactions with them, I’ve come away convinced that age is a state of mind. Those who choose to stay active and have a positive outlook on life live a far better quality of life than those who have chosen to give up. There are four key items, in order of importance, that I’ve noticed these “old-timers” do that I’ve tried to integrate into my lifestyle:

  1. Stay physically active
    In a book titled “Younger Next Year“, internist Dr. Henry Lodge explains how the body is designed to destroy itself. When one is young, the signals to build and regenerate the body are strong and occur naturally, but they weaken with age. Through his research, Dr. Lodge has found that regular physical activity helps alert the body to rebuild itself. Therefore, it becomes more important to stay physically active as you age to counteract the weakening of your body’s natural regeneration signals. I don’t know how accurate the theory is, but it certainly make sense to me.
  2. Stay mentally active
    Your mind is no different than the muscles in your body. It needs exercise in order to stay sharp. A number of Mr. Wien’s lessons are directly related to staying mentally active, such as his suggestions to read regularly, to travel extensively, and to look for ways to do your job better every year.
  3. Stay socially active
    Like it or not, humans are pack animals. We require social interaction and membership in group(s) in order to maintain our mental health. Think about it. If you’re like me, the best times in your life have always be with groups of people – typically family, friends or both.
  4. Everything in moderation
    What you put into your body is important, really important. You become what you eat, so if you are always filling your body with junk, well, your body will turn into junk. Now, I’m not saying that you should avoid all¬†junk foods, sweets, red meat, or alcohol, but I am a firm believer in moderation. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying an occasional treat, just try to avoid over indulging.

Will following these four principles allow you to live forever? No. Unfortunately, we aren’t designed to live forever, and I haven’t been around anyone who has. The idea here isn’t to figure out how to live forever, but how maintain a reasonable quality of life as we age.

Will following these four principles guarantee good health? No. There are no guarantees in life, particularly when it comes to your health. It all comes down to one variable that none of us control, our genetic code. The genes we are born with have a large influence over our health. So even if you were to live the perfect life, bad genes could still cause you to suffer health issues. However, doing these four things will give you the best chance to overcome any health issues, or at least make them more bearable.

My philosophy on aging is to stay physically active, stay mentally active, stay socially active, practice moderation, and incorporate lessons learned from elders around me, including some of the 20 from Mr. Wien so I can live a more fruitful, productive and enjoyable life.

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