10 Ways To Age Gracefully
We live in an age-obsessed culture. Youth and beauty are fetishized. Yet aging is an inevitable process, at least for those of us who live long enough to experience it. How does one age gracefully in that context? Here are my thoughts:
1) Allow it. It is happening anyway. Relax into the process, rather than holding rigidly to something you once were or something you wish you once were. This could look like letting yourself go grey. Or perhaps splurging on some new outfits or jewelry that will better express you in this current stage of your life. This could also look like hosting a big celebration for a milestone birthday. Enjoy it, own it. Appreciate what you have gained, rather than focussing on what you have lost.
2) Find role models. Look up to older women and men who you think are aging well on all levels, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Expose yourself to images of them. Do not underestimate the power of media to influence you, and also the power of conscientious media consumption to help you mould how you want to be influenced. For example: Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Richard Gere, or Denzel Washington.
3) Be a mentor. Volunteer to be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Join a women’s group or men’s group with people of all ages, where you are valued for the experience and even wisdom you have to share. Find a way to share of yourself, and be nourished in return.
4) Continually check in with yourself and ask yourself your “why”. Why am I here? What brings my life meaning and joy? If you’ve had kids who’ve grown up, you may need to do some soul searching to re-establish your independent purpose. Live your life for you and maintain your integrity with yourself. This is a sure way to grow old with the satisfaction of a life fully lived.
5) Keep learning. Don’t let yourself get rigid and stuck in your ideas. Remain open-minded. Cultivate this by doing new things: try a new board game, a new food, a new instrument, a new artistic endeavour, or go on holiday in a new country.
6) Similarly, don’t let your body get rigid. Exercise regularly. Make sure you are doing non-linear movement, such as dance, martial arts, or yoga. If you are just walking or swimming laps or running your body will become accustomed and rigid in these simple linear movement patterns. Keep a diverse movement vocabulary.
7) Keep your skin healthy. Stay out of the sun and avoid cigarette smoke, most importantly. Eat fruits and vegetables and drink lots of water. Skin age is often how we measure perceived age in one another. But the health of your skin is more meaningful than that. Your skin is the interface of your body with the external world, and as such an expression of what is going on inside. It is a reflection of how balanced you are in your constitution and internal physiology. Having healthy skin probably means you are healthy and well on the inside, as well as looking good on the outside.
8) Eat nutrient dense organic foods. A whole foods diet contains the vitamins and minerals we need for optimal health. We are also now coming to understand that plants contain phytonutrients, a category of chemical smaller than vitamins and minerals, that are an important part of why these foods are good for us. This includes antioxidants that help us repair the oxidative stress that occurs over time with aging, as well as substances that support liver function and detoxification. In addition, this category includes something called “plant hormetic compounds” which are little molecules that stimulate a low level immune response an help train our immune system to function well. For all these reasons it is not possible to replace a whole foods diet with a multi-mineral supplement or shake, as high quality as it may be. Whole foods first.
9) Eat collagen. However you want to get it. Gnaw on your chicken bones, make bone broth, or take a collagen powder. A traditional diet would have contained far more collagen than our modern diet does. The collagen in your body breaks down over time, causing a reduction in the structural integrity and plumpness of skin. Making sure you have a sufficient dietary source can help replenish your own bodies stores. It is only been relatively recently established that collagen can be absorbed and utilized, rather than being broken down to its component amino acids before absorption (like most proteins). This is an essential precondition for it to have value for supplementation. Read this review article if you would like to find out more about current studies on collagen and aging.
10) Live simply. Prioritize. Relax. Live within your means – financially sure, but also your energetic means. Say no if its too much. Let go of what doesn’t serve you. Don’t subscribe to the hamster wheel of modern Western Civilization – doing more more more, proving ourselves, overachieving. Get in touch with your own inner guiding light and purpose, and let that be your guide.