Guest Writer for Wake Up World
Aging may bring about risks to the mind and body such as memory loss, but ongoing research has found good reason to feel better about growing older.
According to Elkhonon Goldberg, professor of Neurology at New York University School of Medicine, aging does not always lead to loss and deterioration; it can also bring about rebirth and renewal. Professor Goldberg is the author of The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger as Your Brain Grows Older.
It seems that neuroplasticity – the ability to develop new neurons – is stimulated in people who keep their minds continually active as they age. Goldberg cites Albert Einstein as a prime example. “When he wasn’t working, he played the violin to keep his mind sharp.”
Goldberg emphasizes the importance of continually challenging our brains by “stepping out of our comfort zone and our repetitive routines.” I now have a greater understanding of and appreciation for the long-term benefits of board games, bridge, and other card games I played as a child and throughout my life.
It seems highly appropriate to address not only the over-fifty crowd and the Baby Boomers, but the older generation as well. Living in Hawaii, I witnessed phenomenal strength, energy, endurance and discipline during the world-famous “Ironman Triathlon.” I have seen people in their 70’s and 80’s complete this grueling test of courage; some even in wheelchairs. I have asked myself, “What drives them to do this?” Perhaps it gives them a purpose and keeps them in the “game” of life.
We are not all athletes of that superior ability; however, we are athletes of a different sort. We thrive on challenge, we continue to learn, and most of all, we believe we can continue to create a full life into our sunset years.
My 84-year-old-maternal grandfather surrounded himself with young people. He read voraciously and spoke several languages. He owned several businesses and never officially retired. He believed by doing these things he was invigorated and stimulated by active dialogue and the exchange of ideas and ideals with others, younger and older alike.
I recently read an article about an athlete named Erwin Jaskulski who held world records in track in the 95 to 99 and 100+ age groups. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 103. Even at 101, he was studying his technique to see how he could improve. He became an inspiration to others through his example of commitment and discipline. Not only an athlete, he pursued interests in music, philosophy, and could hold a lively discussion on a variety of subjects. His main philosophy was “to be happy and joyful in life”.
Gilad of the Hawaiian TV show, “Gilad’s Bodies in Motion,” once saw Jaskulski on the beach doing some incredible feats of exercise, standing on his head, running, doing push-ups, and thought Jasulski was amazing for a man in his 60’s—only to discover he was 82 at the time! He and Jaskulski developed a lasting friendship.
The Remarkable Story of Jack LaLanne
In January 2011, Jack LaLanne passed away from pneumonia at age 96. Almost up to the end of his life, Jack continued to follow his passion for healthy living. Jack LaLanne’s Dad died at age 50, but obviously Jack
didn’t believe genetics controlled longevity. He truly believed man could live to 150.
For more than a half century, the name Jack LaLanne had been synonymous with fitness, proper diet, and good health. He was often referred to as the “Godfather of Fitness.” In 1934, at the age of 21, he opened the first modern health spa in Oakland, California and continued on to introduce exercise to television in 1951 on the popular Jack LaLanne Show.
Jack LaLanne’s life was transformed at age 15 when he attended a lecture given by the health pioneer, Paul Bragg. At the time, Jack was sickly, hooked on sugar, and had a “junk-food” diet. From that moment he was changed forever. Into his nineties, Jack continued to monitor his diet, exercise and supplements. His website sold his books and supplements, and before his death, he could be seen on television demonstrating and selling his juicer with the same trademark enthusiasm. “You have to work at longevity,” he noted in an exclusive interview with Life Extension Magazine. He believed that a sound program of physical fitness could lead to a productive and healthy life in our golden years. He recommended staying away from animal fats and processed foods, and reading food labels; if you cannot understand the ingredients, don’t buy it. Up until his death at age 96, Jack LaLanne remained the eternal optimist.
He had seen so much improvement since he started his crusade that he remained idealistic about the eventual triumph of the fitness lifestyle over a sedentary existence with its television, video games, junk food, and early death. “Nutrition and exercise should be an important part of everyone’s life,” he said. “Life should be a happy adventure, and to be happy you need to be healthy. Just take things one step at a time, and remember that everything you do takes energy to achieve. You need to plant the seeds and cultivate them well. Then you will reap the bountiful harvest of health and longevity”.
A Life Worth Living
I have my health, a loving family, beautiful places where I have lived, great friends, and an everlasting presence of spiritual comfort, love and inner peace to sustain me in the most challenging times. I still have an alert mind and healthy body to continue creating more abundance in my life. Whichever position you find yourself in during this time in your life, there are always positive options to choose from.
“My grandmother started walking 5 miles a day when she was 60. Now she’s 97 years old and we don’t know where the heck she is!” ~ Ellen DeGeneres
Previous article by Cynthia:
About the author:
Cynthia Olsen (pen name) is the author of several award winning books and a successful publisher. In addition to her role as mother to her five children and her role as “Nonna” for her eight grandchildren, Cynthia is a lifelong supporter and exponent of holistic living. She formed an import company in 1985, becoming a leader in introducing Australian Tea Tree Oil into the North American health scene.
Cynthia’s appetite for continued learning and healthy lifestyle choices has amassed a wealth of information, which she willingly shares through writing and speaking engagements. Her book Essiac: A Native Herbal Cancer Remedy received the Small Press Gold Book Award in 1997. Her recent book Looking Up: Seven Steps for a Healthy & Youthful Midlife and Beyond has been a labor of love due to her passion for healthy aging, and is a Gold and Silver Medal recipient and finalist in USA Book Award and EVVY Award.
From her home in Colorado as well as her travel venues, Cynthia continues to actively pursue her varied interests in health, spirituality and joyful living.