Lessons on aging.

By Wendy Clinch •  Updated: 06/19/12 •  3 min read

Greetings from the Sunshine State! You guessed it; this week I’m posting from Florida. And is it hot!  As someone who lives in New England, I’m not used to this incredible heat and humidity, so forgive me if my words seem to drip with sweat.

But never mind the weather. What I really want to talk about is the way we grow old. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately, particularly since I’m here visiting my parents.

Yep, my Mom and Dad are two of the millions of retirees that make up a great part of Florida’s population. They love it here, too. “How’s it going, Dad?” I’ll say when I call on the phone. To which he’ll reply, “Just another day in Paradise.” So yeah, they’re happy.

But before you picture frail old folks sitting in rockers on the front porch, let me set you straight:

Those people are not my parents.

Even though Dad’s 89 and Mom’s 82, they’re both incredibly active. Dad swims half a mile three or four times a week — and that’s after playing 9 holes of golf.  In fact, it’s my Dad’s swimming that inspired me to take it up five years ago. (Hey, if the old man can do it, why can’t I?)

My Mom’s the same way, starting each day with a 3 mile speed walk, followed by a full day of activities that would wear out a teenager. Add to this a very active night life: parties, dances, shows, and so on, and it’s the kind of retirement most people only dream about. And they’ve been lucky enough to have.

I say “lucky” because they’re both in excellent health. Oh, they have a few small things going on — Mom had her hip replaced after falling while doing the Lindy a few years ago, and Dad has some arthritis — but for people in their 80’s, they’re in A-plus shape.

So how do they do it? Are they healthy because they’re active, or are they active because they’re healthy? Is it genetics, good living, or just plain luck?

In some ways, it is luck. They’ve been fortunate enough to dodge many of the diseases that sideline a lot of people their age: cancer, heart disease, Alzheimers, and so on.

But there are other reasons, too, that are a lot more proactive. They don’t smoke or drink, they take lots of vitamins, they make exercise part of their daily lives, they watch their weight, and they eat healthy foods.

They also lead very active social lives. Mom and Dad have a wide circle of friends, and manage to do one thing or another with them nearly every day. And they read. A lot. This is part of a lifelong habit that pays off big time in keeping them sharp.

We all learn from our parents. And one of the best lessons I’ve learned is how to grow old. Not to take it sitting in a rocking chair, thinking I’m too old for this or that, but to live healthfully and remain active and connected to the world at large.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be like my parents when I grew up.

I still do.


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