Aging is a process we are often resigned to as a slippery slope of encroaching aches and pains, wrinkles, and an inevitable ‘slowing down’. It’s almost unanimously accepted that we hit our peak, then comes the middle age speed bump - and it’s more or less downhill from there, some at different speeds than others, but nonetheless on the same trajectory. Depressing! But what about those who completely buck this trend and defy all the odds? The outliers, the rebels, the genetically blessed. Those who just keep on trucking and ignore the cultural norms about what it is they are supposed to be doing.
Dr. Christine Northrup, New York Times bestselling author and champion of women’s health, recently gave an interview to a podcast called ‘The Health Bridge’. It was fascinating. In it, she cites data gathered by Dr. Mario Martinez on the habits of over 400 thriving centenarians. Those in the study have not only reached the age of 100, but are still going strong, and confounding researchers in the process. What’s their secret?
According to Dr. Northrup, there is a big difference between being ‘old old’ and ‘young old’. You can be ‘old old’ at 35 or ‘young old’ at 85; it’s all a matter of your point of view. Genetics aren’t nearly as important as we used to believe. Instead, new research is showing that mindset has a remarkably powerful role in how we age.
Have a lifestyle that promotes health: daily physical activity, good food, and sense of community.
Are optimists. They live their lives with gratitude and appreciation.
Practice daily rituals of pleasure: a glass of wine, some ice cream, a cigar (yes, a cigar) - the key here is that they fully enjoy moderate pleasures with no guilt whatsoever.
Lead active, busy lives. They never considered slowing down.
Display ‘righteous anger’. In situations where anger is warranted, they don’t bottle it up but let it fly, then let it go.
Never lose interest in trying new things. Many took up new hobbies in their 80s and 90s.
Engage in social activities with people of all ages.
Don’t consider themselves old. As a whole, they refuse to accept the senior discount.
If you think about the very few in your own acquaintance who may fit this description - the mavericks, the black sheep, the just plain awesome grannies and grandpas out there, they are indeed the very people who are blazing a trail we’d all like to follow. On the other hand, those who simply hang up their hats, check out after an injury, or become resigned to being old will get exactly that. If you truly believe it’s all downhill from here, downhill is where you’re headed.
The Martinez study and a growing body of research on longevity confirms that there’s a big difference between ‘just aging’ and aging well. Believing that every day represents a new opportunity for adventure, growth, and good old fashioned fun seems to be the secret to those who grow older with aplomb. And that is definitely food for thought.