I was talking with the two young receptionists at my chiropractor’s office the other day. They were wondering where I am traveling on my next trip. When I said I’d be spending three weeks in Japan during the fall, one said, “I want your life.” I laughed and asked if either of them wanted to give up their youth and be my age—70. They both shook their heads and said, “No.” I said at this stage of my life, travel is central to my lifestyle. However when I was their age, in my early thirties, travel was not the center of my life. In those years, I was focused on my career, education, building strong relationships with peers, as well as potential mates.
Since turning 70 last October, I have been reflecting on the aging process quite a bit. I have three major doctors’ appointments this month. I will see my ophthalmologist for my annual eye exam. I have noticed that my vision is changing, which makes driving at night more challenging. I wonder: Is this the year that I will need cataract surgery? I will also see my dermatologist for the annual assessment of the sun damage spots on my body. I wonder if the darker spot on my right wrist is serious? And lucky me—this is a bonus year as I am scheduled for both a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. I find myself wondering whether something will show up in the pathology report that will be serious.
When it’s time to see my doctors, I tend to be afraid that I will get bad news. I worry about the impact that negative news will have on my daily life. I ruminate about the ways in which my travel life will change and assess whether I will be prepared.
The truth of the matter is, as we age we face increasing health concerns. That’s reality. We can be proactive in tending to our health based on lifestyle choices. We have some control. And nonetheless we might get sick. Successful aging requires a delicate balance among cultivating a healthy life style, making annual treks to our doctors, and having faith in our ability to handle whatever comes our way. I firmly believe that we have a say in how we will respond to whatever life throws our way. We might want to consider creating a practice designed to override the fearful thoughts about a potential crisis such as an illness, with an affirmation such as “No matter what life throws my way, I will figure out how to handle it.”
We could also remember the wisdom offered by the 14th-century poet Hafez: “I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own inner being.”
When facing a crisis, we need to stay connected to our inner being. It is here that I have found the wherewithal to think clearly and remain calm.
My tips for successful aging include:
- Laughing daily.
- Telling those we love how much they mean to us.
- Looking regularly at the beauty of nature.
- And enjoying a wonderful treat each day.