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Why I am happy and fulfilled at 79

 Whether we are 20, 50, 80, or any other age, we are all aging. And aging has its challenges, of course. But despite the stereotypes that surround this aspect of our lives I see a sea change at work. More and more people all around the world are discovering there is greater promise and potential to aging than they perhaps realized.

Here are some suggestions for happy, fulfilling aging that work for me. I’d love it if you have some ideas and suggestions of your own you’d like to add so I can do a follow-up later.

The power of persistence

My first suggestion has to do with staying engaged and being persistent (when that is appropriate, of course). Here’s an example. I sat down to work on my blog the other day and a thought came up, “Are you sure you really want to do this? You've been putting a lot of energy into this blog for the past two or three years -- but perhaps you could find other ways to be useful or you could simply sit back and take it easy."

I thought about this input from my own thought sphere, but only for a moment. I remembered a project I've had in mind for my blog and got busy on it. And as soon as I got busy in this way, everything changed. I was happy. I was being creative. I was engaged with life. So here are my suggestions.

1. Stay engaged

One of the reasons I love blogging is that it makes it possible for me to stay engaged with myself and my world. It brings balance. It keeps me thinking. It keeps me feeling. It makes it possible to find new friends. It brings both joy and disappointment -- but though it is a challenge at times, perhaps even a pain, it's also an extraordinary adventure that helps me to stay young.

2. Keep love flowing.

There is a lot being written these days about how to stay young and happy as we age, but the most important secret of all is a very simple one. It is to keep love flowing through us no matter what our age may be. Because it is through love that we reach deeper and deeper to the eternal essence at the core of existence.

Browsing the web the other day I came across a beautiful poem at Ashton Applewhite’s blog. It's a cool blog on aging and ageism. The poem by May Sarton, entitled ‘Lighter with Age,” was written in 1978 when Sarton was 66. Here’s a quote from the poem.

“If the whole of life is a journey toward old age, then I believe it is also a journey towards love. And love may be as intense in old age as if it was in youth, only it is different, set in a wider arc, and the more precious because the time we have to enjoy it is bound to be brief.”

Though our physical forms may diminish with time, the curious truth is that our experience of love – our own essential nature – can actually increase.

No matter what is going on or not going on with us physically, we have the choice in every moment to love our life and our world, to love other people, and Nature, and those who are dear to us.

3. Stay active physically

 It is wonderful to see the changes going on regarding attitudes to physical exercise as we age.  No longer are we condemned to early decrepitude. It seems like not a day goes by without some new research showing the crucial part that exercise can play in helping us stay fit and active at any age.

I know that for myself resistance training three times a week with some aerobics in between and a daily walk is critical to keeping a buoyant spirit and attitude.

4. Walking protects the brain

 One of the biggest fears of aging, of course, is the fear we will decline not only physically, but also mentally. But again, there's a lot of very encouraging research out there that says it is very possible not only to stay physically fit as we age, but also to age with a clear mind.

Just the other day I read a fascinating article from the American Academy of Neurology entitled "Walking a mile a day protects brain from effects of aging."

Commenting on his recent study, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Kirk Erickson, said: “As we search for a ‘magic intervention’ to protect our brains from the effects of aging, we may find that this ‘magic’ will come not in the form of a pill, but rather in the form of a brisk walk several days a week. So, I would recommend physicians to prescribe moderate amounts of physical activity that is about what 1 mile of walking per day -- to improve brain function, reduce brain atrophy, and decrease the risk for cognitive impairment."

5. Keep an open mind

Two roads lie before us as we age. We can keep an open mind and heart, inviting change, wonder, spontaneity, and the uncertainty of the unknown. Or we can close down and decide we already know all we need to know. “Being open-minded is going to be vital for Baby Boomers to thrive,” said Jay Firman, president of the National Council on Aging, just recently.

As I mentioned, I’d love to hear any thoughts you may like to share. Also, if you know someone who would benefit from this email, please forward it to them. Thank you so much.

Picture credit: primuscare

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Tess Giles Marshall November 28, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Christopher, this is a lovely post and it encapsulates for me some of the reasons I also keep blogging. Like you, it keeps me thinking and feeling. I tend to be a disorganised writer. That is I don’t make a structure first, I start with an idea and just write. Sometimes I end up with a completely different idea from the one I started with. But the process draws something out of me that I didn’t necessarily know was there before. It’s my way of thinking out loud. (When I put it like that, it seems a bit of an imposition on my poor readers, but they don’t seem to mind!)

I love the May Sarton quote. Let me share with you another, by Florida Scott Maxwell: “Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age.”

By the way, picking up on what you say about physical activity, an online friend of mine who teaches dance had a very joyful experience recently teaching a class of 80-somethings who hadn’t danced before. I published an interview with her in which she mentions it, if you’re interested: http://www.pilgrimsmoon.com/2011/10/07/meet-the-girl-on-fire/
Tess Giles Marshall recently posted..How to keep a gratitude journal

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Christopher Foster November 28, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Terrific thoughts and comments Tess. Thank you so much for this input. I’m so happy to share a bit of your own experience with writing. I relate, I relate. They say that Brits like to “muddle through,” at least it used to be that way, muddling through is definitely my style.

The quote you share is outstanding and very apt, I’m sure. While my wife, JoAnn, turned 80 recently, it’s a few months away for me. I’ll get back to you with more feedback in another five years or so.

Meanwhile I appreciate your interesting and thoughtful comment so much. I’ll definitely be checking up on your interview with your friend who teaches dances. Sounds like a great story. Best to you and it’s a pleasure to share this journey with you.

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Noel Gaughan November 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Thanks Chris for this your latest gift, it is good bread for the hungry lambs and sheep of the Lord.

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Christopher Foster November 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Thanks for your comment Noel, every good wish to you.

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Letsboomon November 28, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I have spent the past year persisting in the thought of starting up a blog. Right now I am still afraid and do not have the courage to go public and be embarrassed as of yet.

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Christopher Foster November 29, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I think that’s a good sign the thought is hanging in there. One of these days Priska (did I read your name properly?) that thought is going to stand up straight and in a loud, authoritative voice, say “Okay. Let’s do this thing. Time to get rolling here.”

In all seriousness, while blogging has brought me some pain, it also brings a lot of joy and satisfaction. The good thing though is that your own inner wisdom will know at the right time if it’s right for you. I wish you well and thank you so much for responding here.

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Timaree November 28, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I don’t need to forward your post to anyone as it landed right where it needed to today – in my email box! Sometimes I get overwhelmed and want to quit everything I am doing and almost did that today. Tomorrow morning (it’s late and I just got my printer going again) I will do the lesson for the watercolor class I am in because like you say, once I get into it I’ll be fine again. Thanks for being right where you were needed today!
Timaree recently posted..Catching Up for Now

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Linda/Positive Spin November 29, 2011 at 5:50 am

I feel exactly like you have described, Timaree!
I get to that ‘fork in the road’ and can’t find the enthusiasm I need to listen to the inspiration that I know is there, hiding.
But once I begin, and gently stroll along the path, I feel full of ‘beans’ again.
This was such a gentle, loving and peaceful post, Christopher. A thoughtful start to my writing day.
Linda/Positive Spin recently posted..Caution! Don’t Read This If You Believe You Can Make Everyone Happy At Christmas

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Christopher Foster November 29, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Linda, thank you so much for your comments and for joining in here. Have a wonderful Christmas. A hug.

Christopher Foster November 29, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Timaree, I am so very glad to hear from you again. I just love the name of your blog. I’m glad the post earned its keep and got where it needed to go:-)

It’s interesting you mention being in a watercolor class. I sometimes think it would be a fun thing to do, maybe even get a different part of my being activated and taking notice. Do you find it a challenge? Have you produced some paintings yet? Any particular kind of pictures you’re interested in creating?

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Cordelia December 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Thanks for intordiucng a little rationality into this debate.

Sandra / Always Well Within November 28, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Christopher,

I love the May Sarton quote. I love the idea of loving! And the mile a day walk gives me a concrete goal. All of this is a gift. I’m so grateful to know you and be reminded of what’s important in life.
Sandra / Always Well Within recently posted..Three Potent Phrases for Transforming Challenging Emotional Patterns

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Christopher Foster November 29, 2011 at 12:09 pm

It’s so mutual Sandra. I’m thankful to know you. While I think of it, where do you live? Are you into poetry a bit? (No need to respond if you’ve got your hands full:-)

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Arvind Devalia November 29, 2011 at 9:31 am

Thanks Christopher for your timely advise as I dearly want to retain my youthfulness for ever:-)

4 years ago my father passed away at the ripe age of 80 and looking back, he was doing all of the things you suggest. He used to wake up at 3.30am every morning and then meditate for 3 hours followed by an early morning walk.

I’ll pass on the early mornings for now but will definitely take up all the 5 points you suggest.

Christopher, I wish you all the best for the festive period:-)

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Christopher Foster November 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Arvind, you have a bit of mischief in you, don’t you? I’m so wise, I can tell. I do wish you the very best, I really do, re your desire to stay youthful forever. I just changed the furnace filter and I have to admit it seemed to me I’m not quite as nimble as I was say when I was say 20.

From another perspective though I’m very confident you will indeed keep your youthful spirit forever and that makes me very happy. Many thanks for your comment and your support. All the best to you too for the festivities to come.

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Naomi Duckley November 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Hi Chris

In response to your post on happiness as one grows older, I have been in the UK for three years now, and coming from Zimbabwe, where age is venerated amongst the black people, I was struck by the emphasis here on the god of Youth.

Cosmetic surgery is being undertaken at a younger and younger age. I am not against looking one’s best, after all it shows self respect, but I think trying to change one’s outward appearance is a sad substitution for one’s Authentic Self. I find that, at the age of 73, and having to face my own mortality, I have become intensely aware of what is really important.

As I walk my dog I look, really look, at the trees and all of nature, listen to people when they talk, really listen to them. I am aware of the life that pulsates through everything, all sentient beings in the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms and I am so appreciative of it all. I am aware that the moment is the only place I can be and so I endeavour to live moment by moment because we only have moments to live.

As the trappings of everything I thought was so important fall way I find that one of the greatest gifts of growing older is the emergence of one’s Authentic Self. That is true Freedom.

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Christopher Foster November 30, 2011 at 10:30 am

Hi Naomi,

I want you to know what a delightful surprise it was to hear from you. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful thoughts and reflections. It has to be one of the advantages of aging, I think, that it can motivate us to go deeper, as you say, into what is really important.

But surely the opportunity is with us continually regardless of age to open our mind wider and really listen the rich pulsation of life you speak about in your comment. By the way I loved your mention of the attitudes of black people in Zimbabwe, having lived in that country myself for a couple of years a long time ago when it was Southern Rhodesia.

I salute with you the one thing that is truly important — our own authentic self. Goodbye for now and I’d love to keep in touch with you a little bit.

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Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition November 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Christopher,
I loved this post. I can relate. Our age isn’t important as long as we are engaged in life, keeping active and doing something we love. Happiness is a choice!
Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition recently posted..How to Meditate Your Way to Success

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Christopher Foster November 30, 2011 at 10:15 am

Thanks Angela. So thankful for my connection with you. It’s an interesting thing about friendship. We can always go deeper, can’t we. I do agree. Happiness is a choice. But the longer I live the more I think to myself that it’s a pretty easy choice to make.

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Ken Wert November 29, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Great post, Christopher!

This is a great list of things we should ALL be doing to live life with greater joy and enthusiasm, passion and fulfillment. So many simple steps that are also so easy to forget to do.

That’s the thing about easy things. It goes both ways. Eating a handful of blueberries every day is easy. It’s also easy to skip. The benefits have been documented. But we don;t immediately feel those benefits. So with walking and most everything else we should be doing to live longer with fewer age-related problems.

Thanks for yet another excellent piece of work here, Christopher!
Ken Wert recently posted..5 Beliefs that will Radically Change Your Life Forever

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Christopher Foster November 30, 2011 at 10:13 am

Thanks for a really valuable insight Ken. Yes, just as you say, if something’s easy to do — heck, it’s easy to take a pass on it too. Oh dear. I think I’m running into another paradox. Seems hard to avoid them in this life.

I think for myself I’m going to keep focusing on how wonderfully easy it is to take that daily walk, and throw some blueberries in with my morning porridge, etc etc etc. It’s good to be connected with you. Sail on.

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Galen Pearl November 30, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I find that as I get older, it’s easier to focus on this important practices. I don’t get so caught up in the unimportant things as I did when I was younger.

Regarding staying active, I know that when I am physically active, I have a much better attitude about life. And of course, I feel stronger and healthier. I just got my black belt in taekwondo (just before my 60th birthday–that was a goal). After I got the belt, I relaxed for a few weeks after months of intense training. It didn’t take long for me to feel tired and sluggish, and without much stamina. I was back in class last night and my body was so happy to be sweating again!
Galen Pearl recently posted..Spiritual Simplicity

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Christopher Foster December 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm

What a wonderful story Galen. Thank you for your comment. Well done on the black belt, I must remember not to get in too big of an argument with you any time:-)

The proof is in the pudding and you are a wonderful example of a new approach to aging that I believe is on the move. And high time too. Blessings.

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John Sherry December 2, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Stunningly inspiring Christopher, you continue to give a powerfully positive voice to the older generation, one that sees life as a bigger and more beautiful joy day by day. You’ve shown here that fulfillment isn’t about age or physical beauty, it’s about engaging all your senses in the wide range of delights that are always there wherever we are. Thank you for opening eyes and lifting hearts. Bliss you Christopher!
John Sherry recently posted..How Do You Coach Spirit?

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Christopher Foster December 3, 2011 at 11:09 am

John, you don’t know how happy I am to hear from you. How are you doing with your variour endeavors?

Thankyou for your inspiring and uplifting spirit. It’s a real pleasure to share life’s journey with you. Take care.

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Cathy Taughinbaugh December 5, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Hi Christopher,

Love the post. We can never read enough about how to age well. Exercise, I agree is so important for all aspects of physical health. I love your line keep an open mind and heart. When I was teaching, we would always tell the kids to be lifelong learners, and that is definitely one of the keys to longevity.
Cathy Taughinbaugh recently posted..Have You Had Any Regrets Lately?

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Christopher Foster December 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Cathy, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. A wise friend of mine used to say it’s not really ‘live and learn,’ but ‘learn and live.’

So happy to be sharing this journey with you.

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Jimmy December 6, 2011 at 1:58 am

Hi Chris,

What a beautiful piece on aging this is. Reading through your ideas on how people age well give me this profound sense of hope and joy. These are certainly some of the things I would like to be engaged in as I grow.

One thing I think all older people have that is really to their advantage is the wealth of experience residing in them. The wisdom, knowledge, skills, values, and so on is immense. That is why it is doubly crucial to remain healthy physical and mentally to pass these treasures on to the next generations. I serious do not believe that all these are to be lost with age.
Jimmy recently posted..The Needs of Our Souls for Inspired Living

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Christopher Foster December 8, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Thanks for your beautiful words and thoughts Jimmy. You give me a profound sense of hope and wellbeing, a sense that actually regardless of our physical age, we all share the same life. And it’s a life characterized above all by love.

I’m so thankful for your words and attitude that honors the gifts that “older people” have to share.

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Lilian Franks December 9, 2011 at 11:13 pm

They say that Brits like to “muddle through,” at least it used to be that way, muddling through is definitely my style.
Lilian Franks recently posted..Gout Tips

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Christopher Foster December 10, 2011 at 10:52 am

I feel just the same Lilian. Muddling through is my style for sure. I actually think it works, for some strange counter-intuitive reason:-) Maybe it helps keep us open to fresh insights we always need as we traverse our way through life. Thanks for visiting and all the very best.

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Jeffrey Willius December 10, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Hi Christopher — Thanks so much for sharing these ideas. I find great wisdom in all of them, but the one that rings truest for me is the last — though I’d add keeping an open spirit as well as mind.
Seems everyone I meet just wants to tell me what they know. How much richer life can be when it’s still about the questions. That’s where curiosity, creativity, wonder and gratitude continue to germinate — if you let them.
Jeffrey Willius recently posted..AN OLDER, WISER MAN – Musings on the Mundane

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Christopher Foster December 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Jeffrey, thank you so much for your great input here. I’m sorry it took me a little while to get back to you. I just love what you say about curiosity, and keeping a sense of wonder and gratitude. I’m with you all the way. Best of luck with your blog, I’d love to keep in touch with you.

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Jeffrey Willius December 12, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Thanks, Christopher — I appreciate your response very much. Yes, let’s keep in touch. I think I’m following you…
Jeffrey Willius recently posted..AN OLDER, WISER MAN – Musings on the Mundane

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Dr. Robert Doebler January 6, 2012 at 3:33 am

It’s also good to play Chess or Crossword puzzle Chris. It would help stimulate your brain in a fun way. I read in the newspaper that it would prevent memory loss as we age.

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seo January 31, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Fantastic website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get comments from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you!

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Christopher Foster January 31, 2012 at 7:39 pm

This is a great idea. One thought that may help. I was talking with my son the other day in BC and he told me about an online community called The Shift Network. He thought I’d find it interesting and nourishing to touch in with them, I’m sure you could find it if you google the name. I’ll see if I can come up with more ideas but meanwhile thanks for visiting and blessings to you.

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Cara Little February 20, 2012 at 5:27 am

But the longer I live the more I think to myself that it’s a pretty easy choice to make. It’s also easy to skip.
Cara Little recently posted..Swiffer Mops

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Christopher Foster February 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Gotta agree with you on both counts Cara. Thanks for sharing.

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Christopher Foster December 29, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Thank you Cordelia. Very happy to hear from you and wish you a happy new year.

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