At Harvard in 1939, dime-store magnate W. T. Grant funded research that turned out to be one of the best known and longest standing studies on aging successfully. Aging Well, by George E. Vaillant documents some of the surprising findings, facts which are now promoted and written about, including some I personally have taken to heart.
How Important Are...
- exercise and nutrition
- good relationships
- health care
These quandaries are among the questions I've been asking, and this article holds some of the answers I am pursuing.
The Secret Of Aging Well
We are all seeking the key to aging well, or ought to be, since growing older is the one inevitable process we will all go through in life. And it is that attitude that brings me such interest in this subject: not just accepting age, but embracing it.
"Embracing" is vital in the idea of growing old with grace and aplomb. It certainly isn't the only approach available. No, some of us fight our aging process, some ignore it- at least until it manages to force a confrontation.
I want to be an advocate for going gently into our more mature years.
I think I came late to this attitude, but having grown more comfortable with it- and my skin, wrinkled as it may become, I would like to share it with others. Somehow, as I thought about it, it doesn't have to begin when you are near fifty or more. It can begin much earlier, whenever we think about how we wish to live our lives. I am not thinking of "resigning" to being elderly, far from it; I want to be as healthy and as young looking as possible, as active and vibrant as possible, but with a "whole life" view that includes the value of maturity.
That also means I don't wish to sugarcoat realities. Being a solutions person, I hope to find balance and better ideas. Change is a constant in life, why not use those changes to improve? I am finding that my relationships, my health, all can improve. And my dreams can still find fulfillment.
This is a bit of what I think of as aging gracefully.
Something of a curator by nature, here are ideas I've found to unlock the secret of aging well in a modern life that somehow overlooks the value of our kind of silver.
Yoga, Stretching, Walking
Exercise Is Important to Wellbeing
What is a great way to smoothly gain better life, love, and happiness? Well, it won't do it all, but exercise is foundational. I like walking, but there are so many days in my cold climate when the weather just doesn't cooperate with a fitness plan. I found that a video, and a little living room space is just the answer.
Do you workout this way? I used to all the time, and was better for it. For a couple years got out of the habit, and now (for health reasons) I am again relying on video workouts.
Working Out Benefits
- Important in control of many age-related problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and more.
- Promotes mental and brain health.
- Helps to keep range of motion and balance.
- Important for weight control.
Still Growing: The Brain
The heart, the brain, and the skeletal system are three areas of anatomy we are concerned about as we move past fifty. Of the three, I wonder whether we shortchange ourselves on what we can do to improve our brain health and maintain that part of us that is most relative to our wellbeing?
One of the research findings is the importance of learning new things, keeping ourselves challenged.
Brains Can Still Grow
We Are Brainiacs
The brain has the ability to continue to grow all through life. Building neural connections (biology of learning) never stops.
Mental Characteristics of Positive Maturity
As Time Goes On
- Looking forward. Having goals, keeping a focus on what is meaningful in life and making plans. We rest, but we don't idle.
- Staying connected. We have friendships and relationships, and we maintain an interest in others and share ourselves.
- Working with what we've got. We can't change our genetics, and maybe life has handed us some setbacks, but we are going to make the best of life and we might even turn some of those liabilities into assets.
- Cultivating the positive. We work on our attitudes, keeping our dreams alive, finding the good where it may be found, we are not ready to give up.
- Developing wisdom. Understanding consequences of behavior, we live moderately, give generously, reserve our resources for its best uses, and cultivate the best in ourselves and those around us.
Keep Connected with Relationships
What Steps Are You Taking for Aging Well?
Keep Relationships Strong and Connected
I was a full time mom for so many years, I didn't think I'd have a life without little children in it. Now my grandchildren live many miles away, and I wish they were right next door. Despite thisI take time to visit and spend time with them.
Gaining Grace: Emotional Flexibility
The opposite of gracefulness is rigidity. Becoming so stiff in our ways that we can not forgive, love, tolerate, or be open. This will be defined different ways for different people, and none of us wishes to become spineless, but keeping a certain openness, allowing for flexibility in our relationships will help us heal those that were strained or broken and strengthen those that have been important to us over time.
I have weathered very strained relationships over the years. Some of the difficulties I must own as my making, and some were not, but I have worked very hard to mend those that were important to me. It requires that I recognize my faults and own up to my mistakes, it also requires me to refuse false guilt.
I have been growing quite a bit in my last decade or so, becoming more gracious to others (I hope). I think such things show on our faces and one of the things spoken into my life, which I received wholeheartedly, is to not punish myself. To not take into my body unforgiveness or stiffness and pain from the past. To instead, release myself into being open and loving, including a love for my own health and well being.
This is a very important part of what I believe this concept actually may be, not so much the physical side of the way we feel about it: "looking good for my age". Although you can see how the two may become intertwined.
My kids have a "Wii" and I noticed there are innovative ways to exercise using it. Can an old dog (or catlady) learn new tricks? It doesn't seem far removed from the videos I started using for building my exercise program more than a decade ago. Such things are opening doors to being more interactive with my grown kids.
My Viewpoint on Gray Hair
Silver Hair or Going Gray
Coming to terms with that smoke signal of age: gray hairs
Hair coloring seems as American as apple pie, doesn't it? It starts very early and is (was) almost endemic by the age of forty. I followed a similar route with my once brunette locks. When gray hair began to undeniably appear I began to "highlight" my hair, and the full story is found in one of my pages on gray hair.
But I had long been looking at all the piles of information, magazine articles, real life examples of women aging, and made up my mind not to have a distinct contradiction of what age my hair looked like and the look of the rest of me. I decided that when the time came I would "Go Gray". This decision for the future was made sometime in my thirties. It would be two decades before I finally took the step.
I mention this because it was a big turning point. From mourning loss of youth and beauty, and fighting it, towards becoming comfortable in my skin with who I am and who I am becoming. It was a decision based in physical appearance, but seemed to impact my psyche as well.
The initial shock of being "an old lady" transformed into being a wonderful human being. I am more than my appearance.
And I have decided to like me.
I think the whole transition to natural hair color helped with that. I know it helped my pocketbook - to invest in other things...
A Good Haircut
One thing to not scrimp on is the value of a good haircut. Gray hair can be coarse and flyway, and a well groomed look is important at any age, but especially when advancing in years.
If you know your hair type, it is simple to find styles that work for you, and a hairstylist's training helps in choosing something up to date.
After all the work of growing a healthy set of locks, it makes sense to have a cut that shows them off.
Take Care of your Silver Hair
- Silver Fox Hair Styles For Medium Texture, Wavy Hair
I have gray hair and I wanted to update my style. Time to create a collection of beautiful silver hair styles. These are the cuts that work well for medium textured, slightly wavy hair. Most are a variation on the popular "bob", quite versatile.
Do's and Dont's
- Exercise is paramount for strength, circulation, and flexibility.
- Get comfortable in your own skin. Accept yourself.
- Good nutrition and regular check-ups are preventative measures.
- Remain social and cultivate close relationships. Develop gratitude and forgiveness as a lifestyle.
A few "dont's":
- Don't smoke or stop if you do.
- Abuse alcohol or drugs
- Neglect self-care; self care is an important habit for mental health and wellbeing, especially if you serve as a caregiver.
Beauty And The Best
My need in face creams, makeup, and problem solvers has changed as I've matured. Sometimes I don't know what I need! And then there are times when a product just does everything right and I want to tell the world.
I had an aunt who always looked twenty years younger than her actual age. She swore to simply cleaning her face with Ivory Soap. But I've been thankful for the availability of ingredients like retinol and hyaluronic acid.
Look for such additions in your own anti-aging skincare.
Some of the Best Age Fighters
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Alpha Hydroxy Acids
- Coenzyme Q10
- Tea extracts
Although there are others which are also effective, these are some of the most potent.
BB and CC Creams
One of the best innovations for skin has been the introduction BB creams (and related type like CC cream). I like to use a BB cream instead of foundation. The brand I use has Hyaluronic Acid as one of the ingredients. Sunscreen is included as well to protect from the damaging effects of the sun.
Take Care of your Skin
My Favorite Beauty Products
Of Course, I Still Try To Take Care Of Myself!
Age is inevitable, think of the alternative.
But the prospect of looking old? There are products galore that claim to erase our wrinkles, give us a dewy glow, get rid of troublesome cellulite. One of my favorites has been BB cream,
You name the problem and there is an anti-aging product somewhere that is advertised as the sure cure.
I'm not looking for cures, personally, but I do want products that work to help me age as well as possible. No one likes cracked skin on their hands and feet, or dry flyaway hair. So some products that solved some of these common complaints of "age sixty" maturity are listed by "hair", "skin", and "other".
Tip: Look for Proven Ingredients
- Hyaluronic acid replenishes moisture.
- Retinoids like Vitamin C. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) treat signs of skin aging (wrinkles).
- Copper peptides stimulate the production of "regular" collagen and other skin matrix components.
- Niacinamide, (a form of vitamin B3) has skin lightening effects and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- With hair products, look for what isn't included: no parabens, no sulfates, no phthalates, no PEG, etc.
Your Beauty Arsenal
Color Enhancing Shampoo
BB and CC creams
Supplements like CoQ10
Night Cream with Hyaluronic acid
Antioxidents in a balanced diet
Hair Cream like Alberto VO5
Water bottle for proper hydration
- The Anti-Aging Skin Care Promise
Despite recent reports that most anti-aging skin care doesn't deliver on its promises, companies go forward with new research they say produces results. WebMD investigates the newest crop of anti-aging skin care ingredients.
- Best Anti Aging Makeup 2012 - Anti Aging Beauty Products
We tested 97 products on 661 volunteers and tallied responses on 2,004 questionnaires to find 22 winners that really can make you look younger
Common Problems and Ailments of Growing Old
Some people experience this problem as they age, for me it was related to the eye surgery that I had to undergo.
With all my computer work, living in a cold climate that requires heating, and the effects of the Trab surgery, I now find that using eyedrops are a necessity.
I keep them in my drawer at home, in my bathroom and always carry some individual ones in my purse.
As a side note, I found the single use vials good to share when someone gets a speck in their eye
Aches and Pains
This seems universal to the aging process. It can be mildly inconvenient, or it can be debilitating, but pain goes with the territory of living long enough to accumulate wear and tear on the body.
Aside from going to a doctor is there anything to do to alleviate this fact of life?
I find several things are a great help for me, as one who has some arthritis and loss of motion.
- Exercise, and simply moving more often. Keep those muscles working and the limbs moving.
- For me, a soak in the hot tub helps relax muscles and aid circulation.
- I supplement with vitamins and minerals, and try to eat right. Deficiencies can cause health problems including some muscle pain.
Where there Is Smoke... an Inner Fire?
I want the focus of my inner fire to be to warm my relationships, to open doors for the next generation, to blaze with love for what matters.
No time for frittering away opportunities, continuing to do what doesn't work, or dragging around emotional baggage.
The Examples of Celebrity Role Models
Now more than ever we have great role models that share their secrets with us. Some are actresses, some models, and others aren't in any of the usual beauty or entertainment sectors.
A couple of my favorites to look for in style and attitude are
I use photos of Helen Mirren for ideas on makeup and take examples into my hair stylist for a guide on how I'd like my hair cut. Not having the face for Jamie Lee Curtis signature Pixie cut, I love to consider her great sense of humor and attitude, her great fashion style, and the adventurous way she lives life.
Late Life Success
A great example of another kind was the artist Grandma Moses. She is a wonderful inspiration for anyone who wants to start a new career or develop a latent talent after sixty.
I was curious about which qualities lead to her success and compared it to points made by internet business guru Seth Godin.
Sum of it All
It might appear to be an overwhelming job to change lifetime eating habits or the impact of common age-related health issues. However, if you break down the goals in bite size daily changes, you can tackle each challenge to better health and greater happiness. I am convinced of that.
I hope this collection of facts, reminders, and anecdotes inspires you to move more, make good eating choices and proactively age successfully as possible.
My own three goals are to move more daily, in both exercise and simple tasks that require "steps"; eat more fruits and vegetable along with regular supplements; do the emotional work of improving my attitudes and getting rid of stress, and challenging myself with new endeavors and ongoing education.
What goals have you committed to establish in your own life?
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on June 22, 2017:
Great advice here about how to age gracefully, Ilona (for both women and men.) Thank you for sharing.