The Myths of Growing Old

Aging, we are told, represents the Golden Years; a time to reap the benefits of a life lived with industry and intensity.  It is a time for reflection, for enjoying retirement, of accomplishing things long put off, of settling into a comfortable chair, of taking time to admire a beautiful day, of having few time limitations, of the easing of responsibilities, and of reaping the rewards of a life well lived.

Those of us who have aged realize the canards of these myths and their inherent fallibility.  Aging does not permit us to take a vacation from life, it only intensifies life itself; it bequests traumas to a generation that anticipated peace and a quiet time for reflection.  The myths of growing old dramatically fail before the reality of growing old.  The necessity for financial stability does not disappear because the marketplace wishes you would; the cost of living increases while the value of a dollar decreases; retirement floats beyond our reach; and personal responsibilities continue unabated.  We have lived many long years and now seem to have no time.  Years that were confidently contemplated to be within our control now are floating in a sea out of control.  The years have evaporated, but not our problems or concerns.

Certain myths about aging needed a good bashing however.  We were told that our minds hardened in our early years and thereafter were a rigid set piece confined to its fixed electronics.  We now know that our minds have tremendous plasticity and, even with normal aging, can respond to increased blood flow through exercise.  Aging does witness a slight shrinkage in brain mass.  Yet, that organ continues to form new neurons and can hone and form new neural connections our entire lives—no matter your age.  From crossword puzzles, to aerobic walking, to coordination and speed exercises– the mind responds by opening new neural pathways.  We can make our neurological system faster, stronger and more responsive.

AARP reports that aerobic and anaerobic exercise has dramatic positive impact on bringing oxygenated blood flow to the brain (see, September 2013, “Get Moving for a Healthy Brain” by Margery Rosen).  This aids your memory and cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s and general dementia.  Increased blood flow to the brain spurs the release of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) which, in turn, stimulates the formation of new neurons, helps repair cell damage and strengthens synapses which transmit electrical impulses between nerve cells.  Memory, learning and the ability to plan and make decisions all improve, no matter your age!

We were also told to accept our aging body in its decline.  Our bodies, once fluid and strong, were to accept the natural aging process of decay, never to recapture the vivid sense of youth.  This myth is simply not true.  Our bodies too yearn to function at their peak no matter the age.  We have bodies of hunters and our muscular and skeleton systems positively respond to exercise, both aerobic and anaerobic.  Correctly stress your muscles and gain strength, speed and endurance at any age.  Walking, jogging, swimming, exercise classes, coordination activities, speed exercises, weight lifting and a myriad of other activities all will benefit you as the myths of aging fall from their lack of credence.

Seniors have the capacity to control their minds and bodies.  Remember, be strong in your mind and body and your mind and body will be strong.

Submitted by Richard Portugal, Fitness Senior Style, LLC, 201-937-4722

Copyright © 2013 Richard J. Portugal   All rights reserved.

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