What Would Successful Aging Look Like?
Successful aging is a reckoning. You gaze at your reflection, realizing a bittersweet truth – you’re no longer as young as you once were. But take heart! Aging means you’ve been graced by God with a long life.
What if we chose to embrace the wisdom that comes with age? What would happen if we shifted our mindsets about growing older? What would successful aging look like?
The Beauty of Gained WisdomWith age comes inner wisdom. Your life itself–the good, the bad, and the ugly–shapes your outlook. You’ve grown in spiritual wisdom through the practice of daily Bible reading.
This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them. – Ecclesiastes 5:18, NIV
Life happens fast. It’s what wise King Solomon is ultimately concluding. Successful aging is being able to reflect on a life well-lived.
Aging is an Ancient Enigma
To age is a mystery. After the fall, wickedness abounded. God, in Genesis 6:3 NIV declared, “My spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
Aging also brings humility; it destroys the proud or lofty heart. As your physical appearance changes, as your body begins to experience wear and tear, an awareness of what really matters most in life begins to sink in. You realize the importance of spiritual matters, the trivial no longer matters as much.
The Aging Process
Although subtle, aging leads to cognitive decline. You may find it hard to concentrate or retain information. Names slip your mind. Aging affects the physical body: bone density decreases. Muscles lose strength. Balance and coordination are other effects that come with the aging process. Thankfully, aging doesn’t have to affect our spiritual life. As you age, your insight can grow and spiritual sagacity is an often-ignored gift.
Bad Diets and Aging
You cannot age well if you’re eating badly. The wrong diet is detrimental to successful aging. Eating the wrong foods leads to cognitive and physical decline. Consuming trans fats and high-carb foods can lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Overall inflammation of the body
Another food that prevents us from aging well is sugar. Sugar, in and of itself, is not the culprit. The real problem is the over-consumption of sugar. Because brain health is of the utmost importance as you age, lowering the amount of sugar you eat is imperative.
Dr. Mark Hyman, a leading functional medicine and brain health expert says, “Too much sugar and refined carbs [which turn into sugar]…have a negative effect on our brains and even contribute to disorders ranging from brain fog to depression to Alzheimer’s.”
Too much sugar kills the brain’s ability to perform optimally. In order to build the aging mind’s capacity to think clearly, reducing your sugar intake is vital. Take the time to read the ingredient labels on food packaging. If you can’t pronounce the word: stay away! Ultra-processed foods impede the construction of healthy cells.
Five Foods to Promote Successful Aging
There are ways to reduce cognitive decline in the later stages of midlife and beyond. You can maintain mental clarity and brain longevity by adopting a healthy diet. Consuming the right foods is a key to aging well. Foods that support successful aging include:
- Organic, grass-fed meat has omega-3 fatty acids that provide the brain with the energy to focus and sustain longer periods of concentration.
- Wild-caught salmon reduces inflammation and leads to radiant skin.
- Blueberries–rich in the antioxidant anthocyanin–does wonders for healthy cell production.
- Healthy saturated fats like avocados, tree nuts, or olives have vitamins, minerals, and nutrients which support cardiovascular health.
- Whole-grain bread and fresh vegetables.
Why Moving is Key to Successful Aging
Because we lose bone density and muscle mass as we age, exercise matters. If the idea of joining a gym scares you, remember that walking alone is great for you as you age. Lifting weights strengthens our muscles as we age. It’s a great way for you to strengthen bone density, which unfortunately diminishes as we age. Any low-impact exercise including walking or hiking builds strong bones.When you make exercise a daily practice, you prevent osteoporosis–the weakening of your bones. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, low bone mass is currently estimated to be a major public health issue for about 54 million Americans fifty years of age or older. Hands down, foods rich in calcium and protein build the very cells needed to maintain strong bones and muscles.
Lorraine Laddish, a 58-year-old fitness influencer says, “Having a strong core improves our balance and stability.” Because we lose muscle mass as we age, exercise like Pilates or yoga supports successful aging.
Moving often and eating well diminishes the overall effects of aging in general. Ultimately, we are stewards of our earthly, temporary bodies–so taking care of your temple matters as you successfully age. Apostle Paul had implored the people of Corinth to glorify God with the body they were given.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own. – 1 Corinthians 6:19, NASB
Humor as a Mindset as You Age
Pursue a sense of humor as aging sets in: being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable! The late actress Betty White said, “You haven’t changed in the brain, you’re just 90 every place else!” The book you want at the library is checked out, but a surplus of books awaits you in the large print section of the library.
Take Advantage of Discounts
Aging has perks. Many retailers and restaurants offer people 50 or older discounted fees and services.
- Consumer Cellular
- AARP offers affordable and exclusive member benefits for a variety of services including fuel and hotel discounts.
- Amtrak offers those 62 and older a generous 15 percent discount for travel.
Keeping strong ties to your loved ones and friends matters as you age. According to Consumer Affairs, “loneliness and social isolation increases the risks of dementia by 50 percent.”
The harsh facts of human isolation as you age should propel you to maintain strong family ties and friendships. Stay connected by:
- Calling your loved ones and friends.
- Joining a local book club.
- Signing up to travel–remember that travel stimulates neural pathways in the brain and fires the imagination.
- Teaching your prized family recipes to younger generations builds intergenerational bonds.
Share Your Advice with Younger Generations
Glean on your life experience–be generous with those younger than you. Consider these nuggets of knowledge from family and friends embracing late-midlife and beyond:
- Old mistakes don’t necessarily define your future success–wrongs, alongside godly values, turn into learning lessons.
- Don’t be afraid to try a different career path–skills and experience from former careers supports new endeavors.
- Cherish every moment. Be present. Leave digital distraction behind–life passes by too quickly to not give your 100% undivided attention to those who matter most.
- Strive for a satisfying life, not a successful one because success is measured by others, but satisfaction comes from your soul.
- Your Bible is your most important book–a spiritual sword when life brings battles–so use it!
Leaving a Spiritual Legacy
You may not realize it, but as you age, you continue leaving an impact on others. Your adult children or grandkids may still look up to you. Just because your children have become adults doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for wisdom.
Building a strong spiritual foundation for your posterity creates a spiritual legacy. Don’t think that growing older means you’re no longer needed. Quite the contrary!
Because you’ve lived long, because you’ve witnessed history, you have valuable insight to offer family, friends, and co-workers. Your words of encouragement to younger generations do matter:
Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. – Psalm 71:18, NIV
If you are struggling with the aging process and need encouragement, consider meeting with a Christian counselor. Your counselor will affirm you and talk through any concerns you may have about getting older.
“Pink Blossoms”, Courtesy of Laura Adai, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Lonely Tree”, Courtesy of Rob Potter, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Morning Walk”, Courtesy of Visual Stories || Michelle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Elderly Couple”, Courtesy of Katarzyna Grabowska, Unsplash.com, CC0 License