A Plug for “Anti-Retirement” Living
A very dear friend of mine passed a video along to me about an amazing 88 year old woman, “Hurricane Hazel” (Hazel McCallion) who is a mayor of a city in Canada. It was delightful to watch how this little lady thoroughly enjoys and experiences life. I was intrigued by the fact that age has nothing to do with her…she simply lives her life by following her dreams It made me want to look further into what all of us can do to literally live our lives without the fear and fact of aging.
In the book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind by Deepak Chopra, M.D., Chopra addresses the connection between the mind and body connection, giving the reader tools to create new perceptions of aging, techniques for harnessing the power of awareness, and practical steps to experiencing timelessness. He actually states that by intervening at the level where belief becomes biology, the effects of aging are largely preventable and we can indeed achieve our unbounded potential. Wow! To learn strategies for aging and literally “stop the clock” sounds pretty amazing.
One of the wonderful aspects of Hazel’s life that I was drawn to is her ability to still exercise. Just seeing her with that helmet on, getting ready to ice skate, was inspiring. In Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil, M.D. he speaks about how he is always struck by the oddity of our habits of exercise whenever he visits nonindustrial societies. Just the demands of daily life give bodies all the work they need. Muscles have good tone because people lift and carry burdens, and they walk constantly. They walk to gather water and wood, they walk to their fields, they walk to markets, they walk to visit friends and relatives. When I think of how often I walk, it is very little, unless I have chosen particularly on that day to jump on my treadmill or walk in my neighborhood. Quite a difference! Weil states, “Of all the technological inventions that have changed our patterns of activity for the worse, the automobile gets the prize.” Weil considers walking to have the greatest capacity to keep the healing system in good working order and increase the likelihood of spontaneous healing in case of illness.
As I watched the video of this 88 year old woman, I was struck by how much she lives life to the fullest. She was full of enthusiasm for each day, each new challenge, always reaching for a positive vision for her community. In the book, Full Catastrophe Living……Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., states, “If your beliefs and attitudes, your thoughts and feelings are always producing reasons for not taking on new challenges, for not taking risks, for not exploring what might be possible for you at the limits of your understanding and your beliefs, for not looking at what the entire scope of a problem might be and at your relationship to it, then you may be severely and unnecessarily limiting your own learning, your own growth, and your ability to make changes in your life.” He further states that we need to acknowledge all the ways in which we are extraordinary and miraculous, without losing sight of the ways in which we are simultaneously nothing special, just part of a larger whole unfolding, waves on the sea, rising up and falling back in brief moments we call life spans.
Stress, of course, plays a major role in aging. It is all around us, getting inside to sap our energy, undermining our health and making us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and disease. I am sure our featured senior citizen has experienced this as well; however, I believe she has learned the secret of life….to surround herself with loving people and knowing how to react with each new challenge that comes her way. Bill Moyers in his book, Healing and the Mind, speaks about the higher centers of the brain that generate signals that very clearly influence hormonal outflow. Some of the researchers in this area are studying whether the stress that accompanies certain experiences, such as taking a medical exam, or divorcing, or going into a nursing home, are accompanied by changes in immune response. They have found that one factor contributing to a diminished immune response is whether or not an individual is in control of the situation; another factor is whether or not the individual feels lonely.
In summing up how to literally live life to the fullest, I come up with the following:
- Seeing life as a positive, exciting and wonderful adventure,
- Always being open to new ideas
- Having a positive, ongoing vision for the future
- Incorporating exercise as a daily habit
- Of course eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of rest
- Seeing ourselves as part of whole, always contributing
- And realizing that all the cells of our body are affected by our thoughts.
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