I believe age is a mindset. I believe our culture teaches us that aging = decrepitude, so we live out self-fulfilling prophecies involving nursing homes and senility. I believe it’s possible to lead youthful, healthy lives well into our “elderly” years.
But the society we live in doesn’t make it easy, not when we’re bombarded with images of older people in denture and Depends commercials.
My beliefs about aging are based on more than just opinion. Research by the likes of Ellen Langer and Mario Martinez supports the fact that our belief systems play a powerful role in the aging process.
Langer’s research showed that just by acting as if it were 22 years earlier, men in their seventies turned back the physiological clock. After a week they sat taller, were more supple, had greater manual dexterity, looked younger and had better eyesight. Seriously — this is science.
Then there’s Mario Martinez, who’s uncovered fascinating insights about the world of healthy, active centenarians (including that they rarely give a s*** what anyone thinks about them or the expectations tied to their age).
Sir Robin is a sailor. Back in 1969, he became the first man to sail non-stop around the world, solo. Now, he’s 75, and he just set off on a solo Transatlantic race.
Here’s what he told The Telegraph: “There are bound to be questions about my age. They ask what I think of doing this at 75 and I say I am still 45. That is how I feel. I think I am 45 and that is where I stay. I feel no different to when I last raced. I am pretty fit. I lead an active life. I think of myself as young and that is it. I treat myself as young and I am just not ready for the slippers, pipe and television. That is not coming in a hurry.”
Sir Robin says, age is “just a measure” — not a marker of physical ability.
AMEN TO THAT. That’s the attitude we all need to cultivate. Our age is what we believe it to be — the rest is just based on cliches, stereotypes and tired old beliefs.
Who gives a damn what society says? If we want to wear miniskirts at 65, run a marathon at 80 or start a new business at 102, why shouldn’t we?
It’s up to us to dictate the conditions of our own lives (and arguably, bodies). So let’s make like Sir Robin and just do it.