Recently, I was struck by two posters of a physically fit senior man and woman located near the weight room at my local YMCA. These two models stared out at me with a menacing, Rocky Balboa attitude. The caption underneath read, “Growing old is not for sissies.”
You and I don’t need to be “sissies” either – buying into the cradle to grave view of life and a bittersweet feeling in our advancing years. Cultivating a stalwart attitude and a mental determination to counteract the headwinds of aging is a good start. But isn’t there a deeper yearning for all of us to break through the crust of decline and death to understand what life or true living is all about? Albert Einstein reflected deeply about ageless universal truths that would sustain and enrich mankind when he wrote, “True religion is real living; living with all one’s soul, with all one’s goodness and righteousness.”
Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th century health seeker and theologian, had a profound love for mankind. She discovered spiritual truths and a system of practice that aided individuals to experience health and accomplishment well into old age. She lived until 89 in an era when the average age for a woman was 50. She wrote: “To preserve a long course of years still and uniform, amid the uniform darkness of storm and cloud and tempest, requires strength from above, deep draughts from the fount of divine Love[God].”
Olga Kotelko is a shining example of a senior who lives life with all her soul and has bucked the trend of decline. At 94 she continues to compete in track and field events. When she was 85, she broke nearly 20 world records. She claims to feel as energetic today as she felt when she was 50. Kotelko is one of many, “who appears to be applying brakes to the aging process itself – defying the slide into foggy decline, remaining sharp and healthy deep into old age.” [Going the Distance; Parade 12-29-2013; Bruce Grierson]
No age-related limitations get in the way of candidate Joe Newman, a centenarian, who is making his bid for congress as a write-in candidate in a Florida congressional district. He seems eager to share his wealth of life experience to inspire citizens of all ages and backgrounds. He describes himself on his website, as a “fiery advocate of social change for more than half a century.”
Dr. Stacy Smith 59, a St. Louis Psychiatrist, found herself facing early retirement after she competed in the 1980 winter Olympics. One can imagine that she put her heart and soul into becoming an Olympic champion skater, but then felt that the thread of her life would not be successful without pursuing other endeavors: “When the Olympics were over, I was determined not to let that be the high point of my life,” [From athlete to physician, the secret to success is focus; STL Post 12-26-2013]. And, she didn’t. She put herself through college and then went on to medical school and today she is a successful doctor. She is also happily married with grown children.
Wherever you are in the continuum of life, it is worth realizing that we have a choice in how we view our capabilities and our potential. Not focusing on one’s past accomplishments, Olympic or otherwise, combined with optimism and deep draughts from the Divine are just some of the qualities that will bless our advancing years with health.
Steve Drake is a health writer focusing on the leading edge of thought, consciousness, spirituality and health. He is also a liaison to the media and to the legislature for Christian Science in Missouri.