Yale University

Sound Off !

Elegant Aging

Edward Massey

August 25, 2013

Category: Health > Aging and Self-Care

The despair in my despairing reaction to the 2012 elections has abated. Some future Sound Off will be about a society that wants to delegate responsibility to someone else and wants to ensure health by legislating it, but true to my concern for those principles, I need to write about something I can take my own responsibility for and actually do something about: Elegant Aging.

Upon returning from a month of skiing all the mountains of Utah, at the eve of my 70th birthday, I was asked what are you going to do for an encore? Hoping to make my partnership with the inevitable decline of ever-increasing years a long one, I aspired also to do it with elegance.  (I welcome all suggestions.  I can use all the help I can get.)

At the core of what I discovered was needed is what I write about here; and, indeed, I believe it can be neither delegated nor legislated.  I decided to pursue my BEST program.

BALANCE: With each passing day, age reduces our ability to maintain balance. I am mostly speaking physically, although I keep track of the emotional and mental imbalances that threaten as well. The loss of balance reduces our physical life but worse it increases risk. Falling down gets more dangerous and more prevalent. I do exercises that are designed to improve and increase my balance.

ENDURANCE:  Nothing challenges, if not simply defeats, endurance more than sitting. Aspiring to a Yale education, I escaped the physical labor that defined all my ancestors. I was so smart, I sat on my ass to make money. Now, I am doing exercises to create and maintain my endurance. I remember working all day in the fields, hoeing beets. I think I could do that again today and I expect to be able to do so when I am 80.

STRENGTH: Muscle and muscle mass goes with age the same as does sexual prowess. No little blue pill will rebuild your strength. Only direct communion with your body works. It does not matter how strong you are, it only matters that you work to build your strength. I remember bench-pressing 300 pounds in the basement of Calhoun College and when I started this program, I could not do a push-up. I cannot bench-press that much today, but I can do push-ups. I will keep going for more and deeper.

TAI-CHI: Well, this mostly is Qi-Gong, but I needed the T in the acronym. I am not expert here and it is the least observed in my program, but it is important to know and experience the forces of chi in your body (and it enhances breath and balance).

No smoking and body weight are not in my 500 word limit.  Classmates at or below their college weight, who have maintained an active adult life, already had their BEST program. They are into Elegant Aging without knowing it.  For me, I am doing my BEST.