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Fountain of Youth Elusive

National Council on Aging
We are as old as we feel

Do you know what your age is? Is that a silly question? Maybe or maybe not!

Do our birthdays determine our age? Or do our wrinkles? Or our energy levels? Or our ability to meet our  goals?  It all depends on how you define “age.”

Can we say that age is how old you feel?  More than other people’s perceptions, our own perception of ourselves determines how old we look and feel.  So is it perceptions alone that determine our age? Not really! 

Rhonda Hensley, director of the Graduate School of Nursing at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, pointed out in this segment of Life Transitions that "age is just a number."

Our biology and our genetics also determine how old we feel.  Having a positive and energetic outlook towards life boosts our spirit, but age may begin to affect our bodily functions and heredity may throw a few lemons our way. 

Nevertheless, it is possible to slow down the aging process with a healthy lifestyle.  Eating right, exercising, and taking a proactive approach to our health can make the aging process a healthier one.  CDC’s State of Aging and Health in America selected 15 key indicators of older adult health that included factors such as daily diet, physical activity, and preventive health measures.

And please… a healthy lifestyle does not have to be dull and boring.  Innovative and creative approaches to healthy eating, exercising, and relaxation can make aging graceful as well as healthy.  An active lifestyle keeps our muscles and bones moving.  Finding new hobbies and engaging in mentally stimulating activities allows us to enjoy life even while we age.

We cannot change our genes or stop the aging process but we sure can make it more fun (taking into account our life circumstance).

Aging may also bring in loneliness.  People lose their spouses, family, and friends, as they get older.  Cultivating a support group helps deal with this kind of lonesomeness.  Holiday seasons may intensify the grief of loss.  A good support group can help a person deal with their inner pain and emotional isolation. 

Cultures where people live in an extended family, older members of the family find their support group within their own family.  Being surrounded by caring people and feeling needed does not allow depression and loneliness to make a person feel old and “useless.”

Organizations such as the National Council on Aging, AARP, CDC, National Institute on Aging  provide insightful information on healthy aging.

Still looking for the Fountain of Youth?  It may exist within ourselves.  Our body is our primary residence.  A little regular maintenance may be able to prevent major breakdowns.  And let's not forget that being young or old are often just chronological numbers. 

Anita Sharma Ph.D., LCSW, is a Gerontology and Social Work Educator, Researcher, and Practitioner. She holds an M.A. in Medical and Psychiatric Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, a prestigious social sciences university in India, a Master of Social Work (clinical practice) and a Doctorate in Social Work from Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Louisiana and serves as a pro bono consultant to various agencies.
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