The Voice of Experience: You really are only as old as you feel

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While my chronological age is 82, many people tell me that I can’t possibly be that old! My answer is often this: While my physical body is aging, with the aches, pains and memory difficulties that go along with it, I am ageless. I live in this body; it’s my home for as long as it holds together. I look after is as best I can, with a help of a wonderful doctor, an equally wonderful herbalist and Yves Rocher’s riche creme for my face!

As I have mentioned in previous submissions to this column, while all of the above things are helpful, the most important is attitude. A positive, non-judgmental, accepting attitude toward people, situations and life in general tends to keep us young.

And how did I come up with “Who says I’m old?” An “old” (1983) Rodale Press book called Aging Slowly. What really caught my eye was this excerpt: “Cato the Elder was a Roman statesman who lived from 234 to 149 BC. Among his accomplishments: When he was 80 years old, he started to learn Greek. Greek at 80? Happily, despite the bad press the older brain receives, Cato was far from unusual.”

That triggered something in my brain — that I could continue studying the Spanish I learned before our fairly extensive visits to Isla Mujeres in the Yucatan. At that time, I learned enough to be polite, to order food and other such necessary phrases. Guess I was lazy, especially since most Mexicans we encountered spoke English! Who knows? Maybe I will get back to learning more, especially since I love the cadence of the Spanish language.

As I was telling my 60-year-old daughter the other day about the theme of this column, she got all excited and said, “Hold on a minute, Mom. I’ve got a couple of quotes here for you.” Three of these I’ll pass on to you in a moment. My daughter, incidentally, has worked a full-time job for over 40 years, has raised two daughters with wonderful co-operation of her artist husband, and for 30 years or so has danced — three or more sessions a week for all that time! And she plans on continuing for as long as her physical body holds out. Attitude! Anyway, here are her quotes:

James Henry Arruda taught himself to read at age 92, then wrote and published a book at age 96.

Rochelle Ford, at age 78, is a metal sculptor. Her personal saying is, “Every morning when I wake up I say, I’ll never be as young as I am today. Today is the youngest day of my life. Get up and do something fun!”

At age 91, Phyllis Sues is a yogini, trapeze artist, writer, musician and singer. She says, “I listen, I love and I live. Your body knows what to do. Your mind gets in the way.” Oh, how true!

Those three quotations reminded me of a one-liner that I love: “Be the kind of person that, when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says, “Oh crap, he/she is up.” Who says we’re old?

Mary Underhill is a stress therapist and grief counsellor. The Voice of Experience is a column co-ordinated by the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors.