As Abraham Lincoln said: ‘It’s not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years’. I believe there is a difference between the chronological act of aging and the state of mind of growing old. Every second of every day, everybody is aging. It is the inevitable that unites us all. But at what age is someone old and does that perception change over the years?
When I was 12 and my older sister was 20, I said to her ‘There’s no point asking you, you’re ancient!’ Yet when I was 20, I felt invincible, as if I could live for ever. At 32, I became pregnant and I remember seeing my medical record. Someone had written on it, geriatric mother, which was not what I wanted to see!
Do you remember your 40th birthday when you hit the BIG 4 0? What hit me was my mortality and suddenly, life had a horizon.
Then you make it to 50. Life can become like the song: ‘3 Wheels On My Wagon’ – when wellness starts falling off, such as hearing, sight, knees, blood pressure, etc. Yet despite this, 70 years old is now the new 60. Like the Rolling Stones and The Who, we keep on rocking.
An important aspect is memory. Last year I met Dominic O’Brien, 8 times World Memory Champion, and he assured me that memory loss is not necessarily an age thing. Because we are told we will lose our memory with age, it becomes a self full-filling prophesy. He believes our brain is like a muscle, use it or lose it.
Now I know the aging process isn’t always kind and there is nothing funny about illness or dementia; however, you can take action to prevent or defer these things, if you choose to.
You can be more physically active, eat more healthily, drink more water and most importantly, keep your mind stimulated. So I would say to you, take action now, embrace life to the full and invest as much in your health pension as you do in your wealth pension. You can then ensure that the later years of your life are the best years of your life.
Remember, aging is compulsory, but growing old is a choice and that choice is yours.
If you would like to keep mentally active, why not join Casterbridge Speakers, who meet every first and third Wednesday at 7.15pm at the Wessex Royale, Dorchester? The first two visits are free for you to come and try it out.
This article is adapted from my winning speech in the International Speech competition.