The answer to the title question, “What is ‘Old’ and How Can One Procrastinate Aging”, is a timeless one. It’s as old as cognition itself. For the next step after old is dead and mankind has been trying to make sense of that once he and she realized he and she existed beyond the bodily demands of survival.
This New York Times article raises the same question from a very personal stance, “Am I ‘Old’?” For when someone asks their doctor or a confidante that question, invariably the person already suspects he/she knows the answer. For many, it’s a no-brainer, especially after an injury, medical event, or reflection in the mirror that shocks one’s consciousness into a state of mortality.
Uniquely, even aged athletes know when they’re getting old. Usually it has to do with data points, like running speed or weight lifted, or aches and pains caused by trying to keep young.
And we all know folks who are old before their time, usually due to chronic health conditions including obesity, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Even with treatments, or surgeries such as joint replacements, we suspect the aging process is accelerating despite continued activities and athletic pursuits. (Disclaimer: Having had a hip replacement in December 2017, I spent the next 9 months preparing for and trekking Mt Kilimanjaro. While that training and that effort looked good on paper, there was no doubt that my body was older than it was before the replacement surgery, though the spirit was not yet there.)
Likewise, we all know old people, chronologically, who, for whatever reasons – physical and/or intellectual and/or spiritual – are still younger than their years. They may be old, but they’re still young at heart or in mind.
Going back to the article, though, let’s summarize what it takes to make one younger than one’s years:
- cardiovascular fitness, which can be sustained well into senescence with consistent, frequent, common-sense intensity of aerobic and anaerobic exercise for 30-60 minutes at least 3 times a week;
- muscular fitness, which can be developed and sustained well into one’s old age though will naturally decline as muscle tissue deteriorates by doing strength exercises – ideally with some higher-speed power exercises – 2-3 times a week for at least 10-20 minutes per session to attack every muscle group;
- skeletal fitness, which declines faster in women post-menopause than it does in men, but is best developed in youth (before 30) and supported with weight-bearing, loaded exercises such as running or hill climbing, weight lifting, and sports like basketball and volleyball or singles tennis, even, over many years, with sufficient calcium intake and vitamin D exposure to sunlight;
- emotional fitness, which actually can improve over time as maturity reduces ones exposure to foolish and foolhardy mistakes that youth is so good at encouraging, and which, with proper medical attention, can be managed better than in years past, but still requires work on your part to sustain, especially as aging brings on new challenges and obstacles, including aging;
- intellectual fitness, which can improve over time if one never stops trying to learn, especially if one is willing to challenge oneself to new endeavors, concepts, and thinking;
- spiritual, or psychosocial, fitness, which has its ups and downs throughout life but can find a stasis with maturity and with a concerted effort to surround oneself with friends and family, with hobbies and interests, with work and works, with community and with solace.
In general, these six elements of life can carry one into a place we call old age without getting old if optimized within one’s capabilities. They each require work, sometimes hard work, sometimes really hard work. But the rewards are there to be discovered for and by each person.
Tomorrow is Christmas. I sent a Christmas greeting to my fellow personal trainers and my clients that expressed a timeless and cross-cultural meaning of this holiday, that mankind and womenkind have always sought peace on earth and good will to man/woman, and I’d even include nature in this. It is a day, a week, when those who believe in Jesus Christ’s meaning take solace in his birth, and when others take a break from work regardless of the meaning of Christ.
But the true meaning of Christ is not in the salvation he offers his believers.
It’s the salvation many of us strive for in delaying old age by exercising, eating well, self-reflection, keeping an open mind, and socializing with those who matter to us. We’re all aging by virtue of time’s passage, and some of us will get old before or after our years, so do what you must, whether it’s go to church or take a run, gorge on high-fat/high-sugar foods or eat a salad with salmon. Whatever you do to delay getting old is your thing, but do so with friends, family and a sense that your peace on earth infects others, and that brings good will to all.