No! You Cannot Be 70!

If it’s true that age is only a number, I’m wondering what that number is for me. In the words of the incredulous clerk who recently carded me when I tried to purchase nonalcoholic beer this past week, “You cannot be 70!”

Whether she was serious or not, it made me think about what 70 looks like, and the images that come to mind run the gamut from those who have already passed on and are peacefully in the landscaped ground, to others who are running marathons – and everything in between. The typical stereotype of an older adult – aka, those over 65 – is gray, wrinkled, stooped, dressed in a housedress, and crotchety. But thankfully, this red-headed jetsetter isn’t ready quite yet to settle into the rocking chair with a pile of knitting and a cat on her lap!

So what’s the secret to successful septuagenarian-ism? Keeping active, both physically and mentally, is one of the keys. Barbara Knickerbocker Beskind, an OT in her early 90s, recommends “good posture and a brisk 30-minute walk daily from childhood on.” Her motto is simple: “Stay vertical and moving forward.”

She goes on to recommend trading in the cane for ski poles – yes; ski poles. Think about it. They promote good posture, provide improved stability over a cane, and project the image that you’re still very much a part of the active world, thank you very much! And what a great conversation starter they offer!

I’ve discussed before, but it certainly bears repeating, the incredible mental and emotional benefits to be gained from remaining active in later years. Physical activity has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, and enhance cognitive function. And although structured exercise programs are great, you can reap rewards such as these from simply engaging in activities you already enjoy (or once enjoyed, but have let slip away): gardening, swimming, taking the dog for a walk. An added bonus is the opportunity for socialization that so many older adults are seriously lacking. Join a club, take a class at the local senior center or library, or find a neighbor with similar interests, and you’ll likely form a close bond of friendship you’d otherwise have missed out on.

I don’t in any way mean to imply that it’s easy. There is some degree of slowing down inherent with aging, which isn’t a bad thing. We all deserve to stop and smell the roses in our later years. But making an intentional effort to change the often hard-won habits of taking it too easy can reopen doors to youthfulness that may have seemed to close behind us. Take it from the 70-year-old who’s still getting carded!