When do we become old?
In this series on healthy aging I have addressed the process of growing older from a number of perspectives – mentally, physically, and spiritually. I believe in the power of the human mind to adapt to ever changing circumstances over time and also in the resiliency of the human spirit to face the inevitable challenges that confront us as we grow older. The question remains: When do we become old? I have thought about this question over the years as I trained clients from the ages of 14 to 95. The reality is that aging, in my opinion, is a “state of mind”. The mind controls our reality on both the subconscious and conscious levels of thought. Thought controls our behavior and forms the foundation for ALL of our belief systems and these systems determine the outcome of our future health and well being. The overriding reality of my OWN life is that I get OUT of my life what I put INTO it. Exploring the aging process in this manner has given me the opportunity to examine what is at stake for ALL OF US in the years ahead and also to clarify the factors that WILL MOST certainly define what makes someone old – or vital – regardless of the number of years they have lived.
I have often wondered what “makes” someone old. I have seen examples of “older” people – like Jack LaLanne or Vin Scully of the Dodgers – who have lived (or ARE living) active and productive lives regardless of the number of years they have lived. I NEVER considered Jack LaLanne or Vin Scully OLD, and yet I have witnessed the decline of people (of all ages) through unconscious choices that yield the very result they are trying to avoid – dependency and infirmity – which I classify as becoming “old”. One of my last client relationships was with a woman by the name of Val who trained with me for approximately 5 years. She was in her late 70’s when I started working with her and with each succeeding strength training session with me she grew in confidence and ability building on the strength gains we created together. She regained some of her lost ability to protect herself and be balanced physically, insuring falls would be less of a prospect for her in the future. Slow, deliberate work on concentration and focus issues also contributed to these gains in balance, cardio capacity, and strength, but unfortunately there came a time when her adult children decided that she needed to stop working with me for financial reasons – and she gave in to their wishes! (I felt at the time that she THEN indeed would become OLD!) I never felt that the work she put into her training – or the time we spent together – was ever wasted, but in the end she listened to her children and let them DECIDE FOR HER whether she would continue to work with me and I felt badly for her. I knew how much she loved coming to the gym and seeing what that “next step” in her journey might be, and now all that progress and dedication to her purpose would be gone forever
I have always believed that the life I want to lead – and the health I want to enjoy – is ENTIRELY in my hands, and I have always made the decisions about my health and fitness from my “gut” – or instincts – because I believe I am the ONLY one who knows what is BEST for me. We give away our power to decide our future EVERY day without knowing it is happening. Just as Val let someone else decide this important aspect of her life for her, she released the very power that had led her to improving her future health and fitness outlook in the first place. The tragedy in all of this is that today we are being led to an uncertain future by the drug companies, insurance plans, and medical professionals, who routinely TELL us how to live – and decide – this important aspect of our lives. The fitness industry is truly the LAST – and BEST – defense against this ongoing erosion of our personal power to decide for OURSELVES what IS in our best interests because our FOCUS is on training and developing the client’s TOTAL health and well being. The current reality of “prescription medicine” is one that I will be avoiding AT ALL COSTS and the definition of WHEN we become old will always remain a “moving target” for each of us that is dependent upon our current choices and the use of our OWN personal power to decide what is BEST for us.
When I think about my father and his death at 64, I am reminded that he was “old” before his time because of the way he CHOSE to live his life. I am NOT – nor will I become – a part of that thinking which subscribes to the notion that “someone else” knows what is best for me! I will not “shuffle” off this “mortal coil” through the door of medication and hospitalization because that to me is the TRUE “death sentence” and NOT the reality I am training for today – and in MY future. I am making my choices TODAY to live as actively and as engaged in living as I can be so as to NEVER arrive at a preconceived destination NOT of my making! The world of this 21st century will KILL individual power if we let it and I am going to fight for everyone’s right to decide for THEMSELVES what is in their OWN best interests.
When do we become old? The answer is when we let SOMEONE ELSE decide FOR US what is in our best interests – and THAT decision has no NUMBER attached to it. WHEN I run that 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday, I will be smiling the whole way knowing that I DECIDED for MYSELF LONG BEFORE that day to be in a position to accomplish something that by today’s standards IS IMPOSSIBLE! I will PROVE everyone wrong and in the process demonstrate what true human potential CAN BE at that age, and just as Charlie Wedemeyer demonstrated during his challenging lifetime, show the world that it is IN – and THROUGH – the human spirit that we are ALL unlimited and powerful beings to the very end of life itself!