Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page
By Michael Sullivan (A Rebel with a Cause)
For the past three years I have been consumed by the wonder as well as the trials and tribulations of the issues related to aging, with a particular focus on the issues for those age 60 and above. Fostered by the influx of magazine articles, television specials, the experiences of friends, family and myself, it is a constant “in your face” issue and a personal challenge for many of us.
I will be sharing both my opinions and some facts I have gleaned from my research and interviews. I realize it is impossible to generalize about everyone, and if my views don’t apply to you, no problem just hit delete or disregard them. If you are already satisfied with your perspective and personal realities relative to aging this article may reinforce your perspectives or may be utilized to inspire a loved one to address their issues related to aging.
I began my journey by trying to understand and control my frustration with the intellectual disconnect related to what I call the ‘HUMAN NATURE SYNDROME’ and how it keeps us from being the best that we can be, especially as we age in our 60s’ and beyond. It is absolutely amazing to me that so many of us are not happy and healthy especially in our later years, despite the fact that everything we need to know and do to lead happy and healthy lives has been documented and published for eons
In their book “The Power Years,” Ken Dychtwald and Daniel Kadlec write:
“As we look downstream at retirement and old age, we don’t like what we see. We’re noticing that for the majority of today’s older adults, the retirement dream is proving to be an unhappy and diminished period of life that is too often characterized by social isolation, loneliness, inertia, a sense of personal diminishment, and financial dependency.”
We have all heard or read the “right things” to do to age well until we are ready to scream and yet we don’t embrace them. For instance, we don’t: eat right, exercise enough, reduce stress, stop smoking etc, etc, etc. I know aging brings with it physical and mental realities (I am 62) but the degree to which many of us do nothing to address them or in fact accelerate them is simply beyond belief. What part of our own human nature allows us to not love ourselves enough to do what we know is best for us? Best for us not based on opinion but on fact. Think about it as it applies to you and those things you are not doing that will help you lead a better life as you age. If anyone finds a “cure” for this ‘HUMAN NATURE SYNDROME’ they will become a billionaire.
I don’t propose to have a cure, but perhaps a perspective and context that will help you look at how you are aging and inspire you to do what is necessary for you to be the best you can be at 60 and beyond.
We all need to focus on our health and fitness regardless of our age and especially as we approach our 50s and beyond. However, I have focused on our 60s’ because it is my belief that in general (especially in light of the current economic situation and its impact on our net worth) our 60s’ offers us the first opportunity to truly rebalance our lives between vocation, avocation, financial needs, having fun and most importantly taking care of ourselves. Our 60s’ represent the tipping point and bridge to the rest of our lives. I also believe that no other decade has as protracted an impact on our lives as our 60s’. The decisions we make relative to rebalancing the key components (health, financial, spiritual, vocational, etc.) of life in our 60s’ will have a profound and in some cases irreversible affect on the quality of the remainder of our lives. So, how are we to more effectively manage how we age? Well, here it is.
- Apply the attitude of the 1960s’ to your 60s’
- Make Your Physical Fitness/Health a daily priority
- Identify and address the real core reason(s) why physical fitness is not a priority to you
THE 60s’ IN YOUR 60s’
We need to apply the “attitude of the 1960s” when we challenged everything and challenge all the current myths and misplaced beliefs related to aging especially from one’s 60s’ and beyond. For example, challenge the following:
- That it is normal to have aches and pains;
- Sex and intimacy is not as important anymore;
- A pill is necessary to perform (allowing exceptions that apply for medical reasons);
- Exercising 30 minutes a day will get you fit;
- Can’t participate in more adventurous activities;
- Guaranteed loss of energy
In many cases these myths and beliefs are “sold” to us by pundits and companies with profit motives. These myths and misplaced beliefs become a reality only if we allow them to do so.
Some of us believe the manner in which we age and the issues we face are predetermined by our genes. However according to Dr. Steven Cherniskie, PhD, only 35% or our longevity is determined by our genetic makeup. So, two-thirds of our life span is under our control. And if you are at genetic risk, isn’t that all the more reason to prioritize addressing your health related issues? How we age and how we feel about aging, therefore, is up to us.
MAKE YOUR PHYSICAL FITNESS A DAILY PRIORITY
I know what you are thinking —If one more person tells me to exercise, two things are going to happen—-first, I am going to scream and second, I’m going to shoot them. Well get ready and hold your thoughts of shooting me until you finish the article. And as I stated earlier, if you don’t agree with me—no problem, just ignore me and you won’t have a felony conviction on your record.
What do I mean by physical fitness? I mean, that through a minimum of one hour of daily exercise and good nutrition you achieve a balance between endurance, strength, flexibility, energy level, balance and body weight. It is different for everyone but you will know what is right for you—you will simply ‘feel’ the impact of your choices; you will feel great! There are thousands of educational and fitness resources available to you to determine your needs and the best plan to address them. I know we also need to have mental, spiritual, emotional, and sexual health, for they are all interrelated, but I believe physical fitness is the linchpin. So, unless you are the best multi-tasker in the world, fitness is the best initial place to focus our time and energy as we rebalance our lives in our 60s’ and beyond. Jack LaLane in a recent interview in the Men’s Journal said it well—“Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together, and you’ve got a kingdom.”
When you ask people what is most important to them, a great majority say their health. From that point on it gets very complicated, especially when one tries to keep the approach for staying healthy simple, realistic, implementable and relative to the ‘Human Nature Syndrome’, that I mentioned earlier, sustainable. To most of the folks I speak with, health to them means freedom from major illnesses such as Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes and Dementia in their later years. But why not feel as healthy as you can, all the time, by being fit; and, in so doing, help prevent the possible onslaught of one or all of these diseases? While it sounds reasonable, logical, practical and achievable, most of us don’t make it our priority.
Let’s talk some more about why we should make physical fitness a daily priority. I’ll throw in some hard data (add the quote noted above by Dychtwald and Kadlec), and, hopefully, put my perspective in a context that, not only makes sense to you, but will inspire you to act accordingly.
As I visited various retirement communities I reviewed the questionnaires they gave to prospects to determine their lifestyle needs and priorities. The following are the areas that were identified:
Personal Health Social Companionship
Staying Physically Active Opportunities to do new Things
Cost and Access of Health Care Finances
Wellness Programs Driving
Remaining Independent Travel
Security Healthy Energy Level
As I studied them, I pondered what common thread connects them. And from my evaluation, it is clearly Physical Fitness. Physical Fitness has a direct and significant impact on every one of the needs noted. It poses a different context in which one could view the critical importance of our physical fitness and hopefully outweigh, in our minds, the reason(s) we don’t address our fitness needs.
There are numerous daily reports relative to healthcare and physical fitness that share the projected negative impact of not engaging in physical activity on all of us, but with profound emphasis for those of us in our later years. Here are just a significant few, what I call “Macro” factors, relative to the importance of physical fitness and good health.
- Research has shown that seniors can expect Medicare to cover only about half of their medical expenses, on average. According to Fidelity Investments, the average senior retiring at age 65 this year will need $240,000 to pay the out-of-pocket costs of healthcare for the rest of his or her life.
- Thirty states currently have laws making adult children responsible for their parents, if their parents can’t afford to take care of themselves. While these laws are rarely enforced, there has been speculation that states may begin dusting them off, as a way to save on Medicaid expenses, according to SeniorJournal.com.
- According to Dr. Andrew Weil, less than 5% of the US population will be born with a defective gene. That means over 95% of us have some say in how we age. Most diseases can be attributable to lifestyle choices, not old age.
- According to the department of Health & Human Services 50% of all medical costs are attributable to preventable illnesses.
- The financial health of Medicare is in dire straits and the projected overall cost for health care could bankrupt our country. We simply cannot rely solely on our government to provide for us. If we do we could literally wind up dead before our time.
- New technology that will effectively treat the major diseases will continue to evolve but if you are not in good physical condition you may not be around to utilize them, or be a suitable candidate. And depending upon the “system” that the current Administration implements, you may have to wait months before getting access to major medical treatments.
So, when you combine both the individual and personal needs, with the more “Macro” factors (and there are more) noted above, why would you not do what is best for you and focus on your fitness and health? Perhaps this information and perspective will inspire you to do so.
IDENTIFY AND ADDRESS THE REAL CORE REASONS WHY PHYSICAL FITNESS IS NOT A PRIORITY TO YOU.
This topic is too complex for the scope of this article but I will share some salient thoughts with you based on my readings and discussions with older folks.
Whether it is from a medical, psychological, or uniquely personal perspective, I know there are numerous reasons why we don’t do what is best for us. However, that doesn’t justify the degree to which many of us do nothing, or not enough for our well-being, knowing the profound effect it has on us and those that love us.
I hear people say, “I don’t like to exercise”. Well, I am not here to sell you on why you should, but rather to provide a perspective that may help you view exercise and fitness differently. Many of us don’t like our jobs and can come up with a lot of reasons why we don’t. But we face and manage REALITY. We need to work to survive and give ourselves a chance to be the best we can be. Some of us need to approach fitness and our overall health in the same context—that it is simply not an option.
The reasons we don’t exercise and maximize our health are many and often are related to issues deep within us. But whatever they are, and however many you have– view them as WEEDS, in your garden of life. PULL YOUR WEEDS AND WATER YOUR SEEDS. The weeds block the sun, hinder your happiness, cloud your perspective, rob you of growth, and steal your energy. Some even have thorns that deter us from even considering the task of pulling them. Water your seeds of growth by exercising and focusing on what we all say is our number one concern—our health.
It all gets back to my earlier statement that ‘we need to love ourselves enough to do what we need to do, to be the best we can be’ My colleague and fellow Rebel with a Cause, Charly (no e) Heavenrich, in his book Dancing on the Edge, addresses this issue eloquently through the teachings of an Indian medicine women named Spirit Dancer. Spirit Dancer guides him (as he runs the rapids in the Grand Canyon) on his path to introspection, awareness and the willingness to “jump off the edge” in order to address the difficult issues we all face in life, including our fitness and health. This book has had a profound effect on me and my attitude towards fitness, health, life and aging—it may do the same for you. (No, I do not get a sales commission)
My goal when I started this article was to share some of my opinions and hard facts with the intention of creating a perspective and context that would help you view exercise and fitness in a manner that would inspire you to make them a daily priority as you age in your 60s’ and beyond. And in summary, here is my final shot—
- Many of us say our Health is our number one concern—we need to act accordingly.
- Fitness is the common thread between the personal needs noted above, by seniors as they continue to age.
- The current and future impact of the “Macro” issues and ongoing medical and political trends, demand that we take more control and accountability for our own health and fitness.
- Money! By being fit we reduce the chances that we will need procedures that increase the cost of our insurance, cost of medications, deductibles and co-pays. Money is usually a great motivator– make it one of yours.
- No one can do it for us—only we can exercise and stay fit.
- If you don’t exercise, seek the root cause (s) and remove it as an obstacle (s)
- The need for fitness and exercise is as much a reality as the need for work and food.
- Do it because you love yourself.
Don’t give into the Human Nature Syndrome. Give good health and fitness to yourself and to those you love and who love you. Others have done it and you can do it as well or better. Join me—Be a Rebel with a Cause—the best cause of all— YOU.