In almost three decades of working with elders and their families, I have observed that agers seem to “lose their voice” when topics turn inward. When I ask what wisdom they can share, the inevitable reaction is “Wisdom? What wisdom? I don’t have any.”
Gaining a new awareness while on a long bike ride this weekend, 50 miles in 100+ temperature, venturing over hills where there were narrow bike lanes and no cell reception. Ingredients for some possible rough outcomes I surmised. Much was telling me that I needed to listen deeply within and come home to self. Then I got lost, separated from my group, had sports asthma and could not get the heat out of my body.
Yes, I got scared, yes, I scolded myself for not being better prepared, for missing a turn and probably upsetting the group I started the ride with earlier that day. But alas, I was in the foothills above Napa Valley, a bicycling destination for the unwary.
With sheep bleating in the distance and cars flying by, I wheeled on, passing creeks gushing with bubbly water, gliding under trees grown just to protect me from a daunting overhead sun. I enjoyed the time to listen to my soul whisper encouragement.
I have heard it said that ‘home’ is in the belly, where we feel most grounded; on that ride my ‘home’ was in my breathing. It lightened the tension in my body, brought me calm … the in/out flow of air that revives weary muscles. Riding creates breezes that anoint my soul. I heard voices, some suggesting that I turn around, some asking where is the rest of my group, especially the sag wagon my husband was driving! But I also heard whispers say “you are strong, not broken, keep rolling”.
It was a flip of a coin from time to time, whether to stop or continue. I could not rest in the dry grass because of allergies, I could and did ask for ice at a garage, then put it in my clothes. I added the rest to my small sunbathed bike bottles, letting it melt into drinking water.
Time was on my side as I closed in on the last hill, to peak and then discover what became the thrill of the day, a 7-mile downhill on perfectly smooth asphalt @ 50 miles per hour, enough to get me closer to my destination and back in flow of riding with my group.
It was a worrisome experience, taxing to anyone who tackled these hills on a hot dusty day in July. Then we reunited, boisterously celebrating back at the group leader’s home. Rejoicing with chat about the next ride, delicious foods, welcomed showers and lots of water to gulp.
The body does rise to challenges when we let it. People who create ‘bucket lists’ to increase thrills in life sometimes miss the thrill of adventure that is all around, every day. We only need to take the time to let nature stream over the top of us like the ice that melted under my helmet and tickled my back …. Nature abundantly provides.
May all that is unforgiven in you be released
May your fears yield their deepest tranquilities
May all that is unlived in you blossom into a future, graced with love
I think of myself as Healthy Ager in an aging society. I listen to fellow agers count their woes, digging deeper with every sentence, creating a hole so big a truck could drive through it. Then I lock into their stare and I see fear; they are describing their fears but they do not know it. Fears of a worsening condition or fears of not knowing how to manage a solution to a better life. Meanwhile, their brain is hearing exactly what was said and it believes what is being said; resistance builds. How to stop this negative spiral from stereotypes that they have heard, learned to believe and over time live with? I feel it is my job to try to provide a rope to help them lift out.
My online courses and presentations are designed to elicit an emotional response because most of the information fearful agers have access to are provided externally by way of negative stereotypes, such as films, TV, media, movies, books, the Web, greeting cards, etc; sources that provide information for other reasons than to empower their audience. My approach is to connect with people on a deeper level and help them gain awareness to negative stimuli that slants the playing field to disadvantage their growth in their Third Stage of life.
I hear many similar stories about “I did not know I had choices about my aging”, “I do not want to age like my parents”, “If I knew I would live this long, I would have made changes a long time ago”.
My answer to most questions often starts with: “How is your life going now and would you like to be living life with more vitality?” People often pause, not knowing they have not asked themselves that question, not knowing they had that power to consider lifestyle change or the permission to expect more out of life.
Does this question stimulate your curiousity about your own aging journey?
I met a woman yesterday who said that she worked out regularly, I asked her what that meant to her. She said she loves to work out in the summer when it is warm as she can swim outside. So I posed the question, ‘what does your body have to say about that in the winter?’ and she looked at me as though she had never considered the question.
There are many reasons why we work out. Your physician may recommend it, a co-worker may be training for a triathlon and that could challenge you, or be a desire to stay in shape. The reasons are endless but what I seldom hear is that ‘my body feels better when I work out’.
If your body feels better then you will be inspired to be steady in your workout practice.
If you workout for external reasons - from a should or ought to, you are more likely drop your workout because your original reason was someone else’s reason. When you chose to workout because it makes you feel better, you become inspired because you know you want to feel better.
I took a client to a rheumatology appointment recently and he showed us a picture of Jack LaLanne, who opened one of the first fitness gyms in America in 1936 and was the pioneer in teaching exercise on television. He was also a pioneer of women’s fitness! When Jack died at the age of 89 his body was autopsied and his muscles were the same as a 39 year old. He worked out 3 hours per day. I’m not saying we need to spend that much time in the gym, but to me, he was inspired and intimate with his body.
At Sage Solutions, I learn daily from elders whose conversations revolve around their aches and pains. I have immense compassion for their predicament, but these elders have also shown me good reasons to do things differently. I created Sage Fearless Aging to teach younger prople how to listen to their body, how to respond to what your body wants you to hear, (which maybe not always be what you want to hear!).
When women become disconnected from their bodies, (and by this I mean that they are not paying attention to their needs, not thinking about what they could be doing to help themselves,) then they become dependent on solutions outside themselves, like pills, ointments, pain management, etc.
So my question to you is, are you ready to listen more deeply to your body?
What would it be like if you translated any pain to be a voice from your inner-body? What if you translated an ache to be a cry for your muscles asking you to spend more time attending to their needs? What if you knew that you could do better to condition your body to the challenges of aging?
When you have a better and truer understanding of your body’s needs you can address issues before they escalate into full-blown medical conditions. You can respond, even in the middle of the night, when you cannot reach a physician or pharmacist. You gain a greater appreciation of homeostasis and what your body can do for itself.
Relying on external solutions to solving routine self-care needs establishes a pattern of dependency on others or things. For the long haul, it is more reliable to build a relationship with self so you can prevent nagging pain, weak muscles, and fall risks while gaining a healthier and more self-confident perspective on life. To me, this is developing a plan for self-care as you age.
So I ask you, what does your body have to say about working out? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Annually? Remember, age is just a number!
Recently, I met a woman in her 70’s. She was experiencing health complications due to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes Type II, and heart disease. Her symptoms first appeared when she was in her 50’s, but because she didn’t know her choices, she now suffers with chronic illness.
You Have Healthy Aging Choices!
As a Health Gerontologist, I am able to help people age wisely using better health practices. We know that Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are best managed with medications. Diabetes Type II and heart disease, however, can be managed by determining risk factors, discerning current lifestyle behaviors, and taking incremental steps to create and implement new, healthy lifestyle practices.
My new friend and I discussed various components of a healthy aging plan specific to her needs. We came to an agreement about necessary steps to take, put support in place, and created our plan. She had no idea how much choice was within her control. She just didn’t know her options, so she failed to realize her potential. And so our work began…
Bring Your Creative, Flexible Mind to Healthy Aging.
The easiest way to create awareness around your behaviors is to bring a creative, flexible mind to the situation. This allows you to stay open and fosters willingness to begin to entertain new ideas. This type of flexibility improves your chances to take action.
This is why I am so passionate about the program I have designed in the second half of my career as it helps women take control of their present and future health by defining goals and building a plan to succeed. When you create a plan, your future becomes manageable; your choices become empowering.
I helped this woman in her 70’s choose to eat nutritiously, read labels, replace favorite foods with healthy substitutes, increase exercise, and decrease portion size. Worksheets were created to manage her plan and monitor weekly progress.
I encourage you to join one of my monthly Free Teleclasses to start to create a Healthy Aging Plan.
At the beginning, choice awareness can be overwhelming. Believe me, after all the 100’s of people I have helped, I know! But choice awareness with the help of an expert can simplify the process for you. My Fearless Aging program will help you focus on the choices that make the difference in accomplishing your goals.
There will always be challenges in life, but when you learn to discern, describe, decide and do what is needed, you will be amazed at the choices you actually do have.