Aging with a little bit of sex, drugs, and Rock N’ Roll
How do we age in the healthiest way possible, while continuing to develop the vibrant parts of ourselves and our lives? One of the greatest gifts I have been given, is witnessing the aging process through the lives of so many creative and pleasure enjoying folks I have met over the years. They have redefined the outdated ideas that youth is the goal one seeks as it slips away into the rearview. But youthfulness is a state of mind and a willingness to adapt to the changes that happen in life.
A few examples I have witnessed over the years involve the following experiences with the chance encounters of wisdom and a willingness to pay attention to the lesson being taught. An older gentleman, just cresting in age at 96 years young, arrives, his oxygen tank pulled behind him, a smile spread across his face, beaming.
“We moved here to live life.” They lived on social security and kept life simple, but explored anything creative they could access, they built new experiences into the moment, firing up the pleasure chemical in the brain, stimulating new neural pathways, keeping their minds fresh.
Recently, while closer to home, I sat riveted by the stories of multiple generations spanning ages from 46 to 92, they explored Hungarian history from 800 BC, then debated modern interpretations of history in retrospect, while citing great minds whose work they still wrangled to understand and contemplate. They kept their energies stimulated through friendships, conversations and continuing to learn. So many could teach classes that would enrapture students with a historical odysseys of every cultural journey.
Another woman adjusted her colostomy bag while excitedly discussing a future trip to the beach in the next, her eyes wide and excited as her husband leaned over to give her a kiss, she was elegant and sexy, eagerly looking forward to what came next. Here in Ardmore, I have found many of these same folks when attending local events, those which bring the world to our community. I have been able to observe the still girlish eyes swooning at her man, or two older graying gentleman whose eye light up as they toast their anniversary. The grey hair and etches of life reflecting the memories they have created as they clink glasses and catch up with locals at the Dew Drop Inn. Or the vibrant conversations of art and politics, of wild journeys in Ardmore, voices erupting into boisterous laughter. I’ll never forget in Colorado, a group of seniors debated marijuana pairings with their favorite wine, foodies for sure. Each mentioned the relief they had from trying something banned in their youth, a bit of defiance heating their blood at 79.
One of my favorite things I have learned, is sex and intimacy don’t have an expiration date, but they may have a need for creative solutions, as human touch and connection are an important part of our older mental and physical health. There are so many ways to connect, even as the body and abilities may change. Some older folks may have physical complication which inhibit their previous methods of connecting, but with online stores and some creative Googling, new delights can arrive in the mail and provide new adventures in intimacy; adaptive technology can help folks of any age, ability, or physical changes, to still enjoy companionship if both desire.
So what things can we do to help enhance our bodies and minds as we get older? First, make sure to tend to self-care, if economic limitation, seek out the local services of non-profits to help keep medical and dental checkups up to date. Eat a wide variety of vegetable, the more color on your plate, the more your body will thrive. The local Food Bank often has salmon and fresh veggies, so many nutritious things for those in economic need. Get out and walk, do body resistance exercises or even train at a local gym, but turn OFF THE TV-AVOID THE NEWS, yes, I said it. It shrinks the brain to stay chronically stressed, limiting our ability to feel empathy, patience, or joy, increasing our feelings of despair, fear, and internal tensions. Join a local hobby, art, singing, prayer, knitting, sewing, or take classes at Southern Tech or the University Center, it will stimulate your interests and variety offsets depression while offering a chance to meet new folks. Stretch, look up exercises to open your hips, create blood flow to your muscles and groin, loosen up your body, it will protect you from fall related damage, increase your energy and movement, and allow you to participate in those things that make you laugh with delight. Everyday, create one small step of change, of healthy habits, and developing and maintaining the healthiest you for every stage of life.