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MailTribune.com
  • Defy age with attitude

    Getting older and doing it well is mostly about outlook
  • "Old" increasingly involves living to 100 years or beyond. The Census Bureau indicates there could be a million centenarians by 2050. The fastest-growing population group is older than age 85.
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  • "Old" increasingly involves living to 100 years or beyond. The Census Bureau indicates there could be a million centenarians by 2050. The fastest-growing population group is older than age 85.
    Songwriter Eubie Blake, upon approaching his 100th birthday, said, "If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."
    Healthy-living magazines, columns like this one and caring friends and family are full of ways to do this. By now, I am thinking we probably know the drill. We are told to eat more nutrient-dense foods, get daily exercise and use our brains — cognitively challenge ourselves on a regular basis.
    OK, those are good ideas. I'm not suggesting they're not. But here is my newest realization. Getting older and doing it well is mostly about attitude. Recently, I came across a Web-based list of questions about "defying aging." It started me down a path of self-reflection — and I feel like sharing.
    It's not the usual list of reminders to eat more antioxidant vegetables and floss daily. And somehow Oprah is involved in this list — not sure exactly how. (But she is sort of tied to everything so it really does not surprise me.) The context is "how to defy aging." The source is the Ageless Lifestyle Institute.
    Read what follows and think about the questions.
    1. Do you believe and accept compliments?
    2. Do you have at least one passionate interest?
    3. Have you laughed out loud in the last 24 hours?
    4. Do you spend at least a half-hour a day reading for enjoyment?
    5. When someone disappoints you, do you let it go within a week?
    6. Do you breathe deeply at least a few minutes every day?
    7. Do you have a sense of purpose in your life?
    8. Do you engage in an activity several times a week that gets you in a relaxed state?
    9. When you talk to yourself, is most of the conversation positive?
    10. Do you think next year will be better than this year?
    If you rolled through the list and responded with only a couple of resoundingly affirmative answers, the author, Dr. Michael Brickey, would say "you probably feel older than your age" and he might encourage you to choose one of the items above and work on it through self-reflection and journaling.
    There's a longer 42-item test (www.agelesslifestyles.com) that probes a bit further — but you get the idea. The emphasis seems to be on "treating happiness as a skill to be learned."
    Apparently question No. 5 can be particularly vexing for us as we age. When someone disappoints us, we hang on to it longer than we should. We may not look like we do that — but we do. "Forgiving" can be one of the toughest areas for aging adults. The presumption is when we don't "let go" of something irritating or shed that feeling of being "wronged" — such as the friend you expected to call who didn't or the fact that your kids have not visited in more than a year — can create a whole boatload of stress. It shows up in depression, memory difficulties and somatic complaints.
    Maybe it starts with self-forgiveness? Do that right now. And then move on to question No. 6. Maybe you should do what it suggests, too.
    Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.
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