Age is Just a Number

April 5, 2019

By: Allison Kauffman

About three years ago, at age 43, I finished my sixth marathon. I remember saying to my sister, “That is it. I’m done with marathons.” She of course asked why I would stop after completing six of them. I told her I was getting older, wasn’t any faster and was tired of running.”

Now three years later, I reflect on that conversation and sometimes I wonder why I ever said it. Yes, I’m done running marathons for now. But maybe on my 50th birthday, I will decide to run another one. Who knows what the future may hold for me and never say never!

I decided to do some research on older marathon runners and learned about Harriette Thompson. At the age of 92, Thompson completed the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in 2015 in 7:24:36. Thompson was accompanied by her 56-year-old son Brenny Thompson, who helped her complete the race. Hearing about Harriette and her accomplishment leads me to believe that age is really just a number and if you are mentally and physically prepared, you can accomplish your goals, regardless of your age.

A perfect example of this is Dorothy English, a sales and enrollment coordinator at Albright LIFE Lancaster. When Dorothy celebrated her 60th birthday five years ago, she asked her husband for a discovery flight, which is when you go up with a certified pilot in a plane and they give you a chance to see what it’s like to fly the plane. For her next birthday, Dorothy’s husband got her three flying lessons to start working on obtaining her sport pilot’s license. Since then, Dorothy has gotten both her Sport License to fly planes with two seats and her Private License, to fly planes with four passengers or more.

Dorothy has some advice for others who have not yet followed their dreams. “I would just encourage anyone…If you’ve got something on your bucket list or something you really want to try to do, don’t just sit there thinking about it. Go do it. Try it. I’ve learned a lot about myself in flying. I’ve learned a lot of things I’ve had to change about myself. There were many days I thought I should just quit. But, don’t let that keep you back. You only get one round here. Use it and go as far as you can.” Dorothy also received a scholarship from a women’s pilot organization, being the oldest to receive the scholarship at age 65.

Let’s look at some other accomplishments. John Glenn became the oldest astronaut to ever go into space at 77 years old. Arthur Von Pongracz of Austria competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics at the age of 72 as an equestrian rider and placed fourth.

Personally, I can’t forget my grandfather, who was a downhill skier at age 70 and kept up with the best skiers in Park City, Utah. He was a risk taker and loved skiing on the slopes marked black diamond (the hardest level) with moguls. The point is, you don’t have to become an astronaut or an equestrian, but you can still achieve your goals, regardless of your age!

According to HealthDay.com, when older adults feel more in control of their lives and get more exercise, they feel younger, which improves their thinking and overall quality of life and longevity.  The studies also found that as people get older, they consistently say they feel younger than their actual age. I think most of us can say that about ourselves.  I definitely don’t feel 46, even though my kids think I’m old!

So how can you feel younger? Best Life.com published a list of ways to feel younger. Some of the tips included:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Drinking more water
  • Taking yoga classes
  • Go hiking
  • Smile often
  • Cut back on sugar consumption
  • Lift weights
  • Meditate
  • Stay positive
  • Eat healthy snacks
  • Take your vitamins
  • Adopt a dog
  • Get your rest
  • Spend time with friends
  • Go on an adventure/take a trip
  • Find a new hobby
  • Don’t skip breakfast
  • Quit bad habits like smoking
  • Work on your posture
  • Listen to music you enjoy
  • Act young by staying up late or going to a concert
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Stretch regularly
  • Enjoy volunteering
  • Go on regular walks
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Take a class
  • Garden or plant trees

With spring arriving soon, there are some great activities that will make you feel like a kid again. The website Beliefnet.com has a list of activities that can make you feel full of life and young again. You can do them with your grandchildren or spouse or even on your own.

  • Fly a kite- You’re connected not only to the big open sky, but to your youth, as well. Allow your worries to slip away as you enjoy your time outdoors.
  • Walk barefoot in the grass- Enjoy the feel of the grass on your bare feet as you reflect on enjoyable times as a child spent outdoors with friends and family.
  • Have a picnic- Picnics can be relaxing, fun and even romantic! Pack up your basket and head out on a nice spring afternoon.
  • Play outdoor games- Remember playing outdoor games at family gatherings? Try badminton, croquet, shuffleboard, hopscotch, horseshoes and other youthful games.
  • Go to a theme park- You don’t have to get on all of the rides like you did as a kid, but enjoy walking around an amusement park, having an ice cream cone and feeling the excitement of the park through the eyes of a child.
  • Go for a bike ride- Put on your helmet and enjoy riding your bike along the river or a scenic path. This is a great activity you can do alone or with a friend.
  • Go for a swim- Nothing makes you feel young again like splashing in the pool. Enjoy a swim in the indoor heated pools at RiverWoods and Normandie Ridge Senior Living Communities or try taking a dip in the river when it gets a bit warmer!

And taking care of yourself can help you feel and look younger too. Eating the right foods, exercising and getting enough sleep are ways to boost your energy. Harvard Health Publishing has other recommendations for boosting your energy. They include:

  • Limiting your stress- Stress-induced emotions consume huge amounts of energy
  • Lighten your load- One of the main reasons for fatigue is overwork. Overwork can include professional, family, and social obligations.
  • Avoid smoking- Smoking causes insomnia
  • Restrict your sleep- Avoid napping during the day
  • Limit caffeine- Try to avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. to prevent insomnia
  • Limit alcohol- Drinking during the day or evening can prevent you from staying active
  • Drink water- Drinking a good amount of water will stave off fatigue

So when someone says 70 is the new 50, it may just be their mentality about how they feel at that age. According to PositiveAgeing.org, positive ageing is a way of living rather than a state of being. Positive ageing is an approach which recognizes how negative mental states (beliefs, thoughts, ideas, attitudes) can have a detrimental impact on physical and emotional wellbeing as we age. Instead of assuming how you will feel at a certain age, it is recommended you keep a positive approach to everything, regardless of your age. Assume you can do it and go out and give it a try!