Don’t You Dare Say That!

I’m not being the ‘Word Police’ when I say that we have to be very careful about our language. It’s because the words we use affects our thinking and that thinking affects the way that we behave.

It’s much more that the response to the question, ‘How are you?‘ – ‘OK’, ‘Not too bad’, or an outpouring of a list of ailments. (Be warned: When someone enquires about your wellbeing, they probably don’t want you a detailed answer.)

As we age, the words we choose to use become even more important.

Researchers at New York University asked 2 groups of students to construct a sentence using 4 of the 5 words associated with a particular theme. One of the themes, ‘elderly’ contained the words, ‘Florida’, ‘forgetful’, ‘bald’, ‘gray’, and ‘wrinkles’.

When they had completed their initial task, participants were sent to another experiment down the hall. It was the short walk that the experiment was really about. The researchers unobtrusively measured the time it took people to get from one end of the corridor to the other.

It turned out that the young people who had fashioned a sentence from the words with the ‘elderly’ theme walked down the hallway significantly slower than those who chose another theme. Researchers concluded two things: a set of words primed thoughts of old age, even though the word ‘old’ was never used; and thoughts prime behaviour, walking slowly is usually associated with older age.

An immediate implication is, of course, that we need to take control of the words we use and, therefore, our thoughts – the nature of information we ‘feed’ ourselves and expose ourselves to; including the quality of the company we keep. (This message was brilliantly demonstrated in a Seinfeld episode in which George Costanza was sacked by an‘old guy’ (a widower in his ‘eighties) with whom George had volunteered to provide company. George’s ‘companion’ opted out of the relationship, identifying George’s negativity as a severe health hazard.)

While it’s useful to know that there’s research supporting the idea that the words we use have an effect on the way that we behave, we can use this valuable information in reverse in our everyday lives. Two things are required of you.
1. Listen to particular words that people choose to use.
2. Ask yourself, why would they use those words?

As Wittgenstein observed, ‘ The limits of my language are the limits of my world’.

A Little Bit Often Can Be Good For You

A little bit often has heaps to recommend it. When you were a school kid your teacher probably followed that practice, and kid’s programs such as Sesame Street still use that approach. The philosophy associated with a little bit often is not only for kids, but also for us oldies to adhere to as we age and grow older. No doubt you will be able to add to this list, but here are a few examples to help get you started.

Exercise. There’s plenty of research supporting the idea that a little bit often of regular exercise can help to add years to your life and life to your years. For most of us, fitness is achieved by doing a little bit at a time.
Food. Caloric reduction is acknowledged as a longevity-increaser, so eating a little bit often (grazing) is considered to be much better for you than eating big meals several times a day. And, when making your selection, remember the acronym D.I.E.T – Do I Eat That?
Fun. Fun is one of the 7Fs that can help to add years to your life and life to your years. Fun needn’t die with age: we all needs some fun in our lives, and a little bit often leads to living longer, better. Make sure that your daily diet includes generous helpings of fun.
Laughter. Even though we know it’s good for us, most of us don’t laugh enough. Ideally, a little bit often is a goal worth pursuing. Go on, LOL!
Friendship. Catching-up with friends is one of life’s joys, and a little bit often is much better than living in another’s pockets or overstaying your welcome.
Busy-ness. Everyday life has taught us that a little bit often beats spurts of busy-ness followed by zip. Have you ever tried keeping busy by doing nothing?
Acts of Kindness. A little bit often ensures that you spread your good will around, and the practice is catching. Imagine a world in which everyone cared for each other? Who knows, acts of kindness might even become random.
Sex. Perhaps a little bit often might be good for you?

It’s over to you to add to this list. Remember, the one time that a little bit often is a definite no-no is when addiction enters the mix. When a little bit often become a bit too much, it’s time to quit.

How to have fun

No one can tell another what counts as fun: what’s fun for one person might be a turn-off for another. We do know, however, that a bit of fun is good for us – it makes us feel good and its memory lives on.

There are a few things about fun that we agree on.
1. It’s usually a diversion from everyday life.
2. It’s usually associated with playfulness.
3. It’s usually not serious.
It would seem that anything connecting us with our childlike energy and joy counts as fun.

Whatever the reason, most oldies seem to become disconnected from the concept of fun: fun seems to die as we age. But this need not be the case.

When is the last time you had fun, let yourself go and had a good time, forgot about all your daily responsibilities, and lived in the moment?

Maybe you held back because you were concerned what other people would think, forgetting Dr Seuss’s words of wisdom, that ‘those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind’. Or perhaps you thought you couldn’t afford to engage in fun activities forgetting that some of the best things in life are free. Perhaps you thought that you didn’t have the time, or you needed a plan, or you forgot that life’s too short to be serious, or considered that conditions have to be perfect to have fun, or that you can have fun only when something is big and spectacular. Or, assuming you don’t have depression, ADHD, or some other ailment, you forgot that breaking boredom is a choice.

Here are some options worthy of your consideration that can be done alone or with others.
1. Find a hobby or something you’re passionate about. A new hobby is a great way to spice up your routine, pick up a new skill, and provide something to look forward to on a daily basis.
2. Listen to music. Make music a part of your life, a healthy habit.
3. Think and act positively. Brighten up your life and live longer by embracing the best in every situation.
4. Get out of your comfort zone. Instead of doing the same old thing day after day, do something completely unexpected that you never thought you would do, no matter how silly or out-of-character.

Age has zit to do with it. You make the changes and opportunities in your life, so get out there and have fun. You could be depriving yourself of some good times. 

Food, Fitness, Fasting , and Living Longer

Life’s too short to experience everything ourselves so we take on board what others have done or do. Take, for example, ways that may help us to live longer.

A research team, during a six-month study, from Rome’s Sapienza University and the San Diego School of Medicine found that a diet based on vegetables, herbs, and fish, combined with lots of exercise and genetic factors provided the secret to a long life.

It seems that the researchers agreed with what has become known as the Mediterranean Diet – with a touch of herbs. (It was the American scientist Ancel Keys who first identified the health benefits of what became known as the Mediterranean Diet, based on a diet of olive oil, fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish.)

The researchers found many centenarians in a small Italian village (Acciaroli) known for its fishing, olive groves and rolling hills on the banks of the Mediterranean. In the village, one in 10 of the 700 residents were expected to live to reach 100+ years of age.

Elderly people in the village had unusually good blood circulation, helping to feed nutrients to the body and efficiently take away waste products through the capillaries. The scientists identified qualities more commonly seen in people aged in their 20s or 30s.

Not only did the people eat plenty of olive oil, locally-caught fish, and home-reared rabbits and chickens but also exercised on a regular basis. In addition, they also added lots of local herbs to meals, particularly rosemary, which is believed to help keep the brain functioning. The residents of Acciaroli not only lived long lives, but also seemed immune from age-related diseases such as dementia, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.

But a (‘true’) Mediterranean Diet diet might involve more than food only. In his bestselling book Antifragile, Nassim Talib points to the role that fasting plays in the lives of many people in the Mediterranean area: fasting is common practice in this region.

It seems that we can take on board three main things from what’s mentioned here without relocating.
1. Think Mediterranean Diet when considering what should be permitted entry to your mouth.
2. Use the acronym D.I.E.T to help you question Do I Eat That? and Do I Exercise Today?
3. Try regular fasting by considering diets such as the 2/5 or 1/6 diets These will help you to limit and monitor your food intake.

How to get the most out of life

A group of oldies were sitting around, having a coffee, and talking about all their ailments – having a whinge, actually. The conversation went something like this.
‘My arms have got so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee,’ said one.
‘Yes, I know,’ said another. ‘My cataracts are so bad; I can’t even see my coffee.’
‘I couldn’t even mark an X at election time because my hands are so crippled,’ volunteered a third.
‘What? Speak up! What? I can’t hear you’, said one elderly lady!
‘I can’t turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck,’ said one, to which several nodded weakly in agreement.
‘My blood pressure pills make me so dizzy!’ exclaimed another.
‘I forget where I am, and where I’m going,’ said another.
‘I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old,’ winced an old man as he slowly shook his head. The others nodded in agreement. ‘Well, count your Blessings,’ said a woman cheerfully. ‘Thank God we can all still drive.’

Other than the Eric-Idel moment (always look on the bright side) and the scary possibilities for other road users, some oldies seem to like having a whinge about ageing and growing old.

Yet, modern medical science has helped to add years to life. In days gone by, a heart attack or stroke would signal the end, but now stents, bypasses, and wonder drugs can extend life even further. It doesn’t follow, as the conversation above illustrates, that increased longevity necessarily includes an increase in quality. After all, Groucho Marx assured us, ‘Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough’. This emphasis on the quality of life is hardly a recent ‘discovery’. A couple of thousand years ago, Seneca described the practice of adding years to life without adding life to those years as a waste of time. When it comes to longevity, quality and quantity must be inextricably linked.

A great message for growing old gracefully comes from octogenarian Daniel Klein. In his bestselling book Travels with Epicurus, Klein resolved not to dwell on something over which he had no control – like, growing older. Instead, he said, ‘I would rather try to figure out how to spend my time in the best possible way’.

Dying young, as late as possible, is one of the main challenges for all of us. And to that end, being an active participant rather than an onlooker (or whinger) is worth the effort.

How much is enough?

We know that the 7Fs (Food, Fitness, Friendships, Finances, Future, Fun, Faith) can help to add years to life and life to years. A key component of Fitness is exercise, both physical and mental: exercise is something we must do. However, fitting exercise into our daily routine can be a real struggle. If you’re in this group, you’re not Robinson Crusoe.

A recent Australian study found that many people had barriers around incorporating exercise into their daily routine – both in the workplace and later in life.The study showed that 54% of Australian workers identified work pressures as getting in the way of exercising and 43% reckoned that they were too tired from work to lead an active lifestyle. And oldies claimed that they found the task difficult because their levels of motivation seemed to have declined with age. Then, of course, there’s the big question of how much exercise is considered to be enough?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that we complete 10,000 steps, or the equivalent level of activity, every day. Walking, for example, can be a great way to reach, and even exceed, the magic number. There are, however, a range of sports and activities that can quickly contribute to the recommended steps.

There’s a plethora of activities. Other examples include:

Activity Equivalent low-intensity steps per half hour
Pilates 4,160 steps
Golfing, even at the driving range. 4,264
Gardening 1,000
Most forms of yoga. 4,060
Wheelchair activities 6,000
Jogging, swimming, and bike riding – or other cross-training activities. 6,754
Surfing 5,118

Those on this list are examples only, of course. It’s up to you to choose an exercise that suits you and your lifestyle. You can also help to reach your daily goal of 10,000 by incorporating some of these activities into your daily routine.
. Invite friends to join you in your daily exercise;
. Where possible, use the stairs instead of taking the lift or escalator;
. Try a wide variety of new sports or activities;
. Walk instead of driving, and even if you must drive, park further away from your destination so you have to walk further;
. Hop off the bus one stop earlier;
. Spring clean the house, the garage, or your den;
. Play with the grandkids when they’re around; and
. Get started – remember excuses are alibis for not succeeding.

There’s plenty of available technologies to help you to reach your WHO target. And exceeding 10,000 is OK, so don’t be hesitant about taking that next step.

The Soup Nazi and The Golden Rule for Growing Old

The Soup Nazi episode is one of Seinfield’s best. In the soup kitchen/shop was a sign displayed for all to read: Prices may vary depending on the attitude of the customer. In this episode, the price of the bread increased the more the customer (George Costanza) complained about it, until ultimately ending with the Soup Nazi ruling, ‘No soup for you!’ The Soup Nazi probably did what most owners of a cafe or small business has wanted to do at some time, but there’s also an underlying message.

That message is a call for a customer attitude adjustment. Customers are put on notice about the attitudes they bring into the place, given that transactions aren’t always conducted in a courteous, professional, and business-like way.

Experience that can only be gained from living has taught us that the key quality we need to afford others was first brought to our attention by Confucius approximately 500 years BCE: ‘Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself’. This has become known as The Golden Rule or the law of reciprocity. With variations, many of the religions of the world and human culture have this ‘rule’ at the core of their teaching. Treating others how you would like to be treated is just as current today as it was thousands of years ago.

Now, living the golden rule is within everyone’s grasp. There are three plus one things we can do starting today. The three things we can do are as follows.
1. Live authentically by always considering the consequences of our actions.
2. Start small by making a commitment to be cheerful in our interactions with people we encounter.
3. Get practical by giving ourself plenty of opportunities for practicing the meaning of what Confucius meant.

1. The extra thing we can do is to make time for meditation. By devoting a brief time each day (say, 20 minutes) to this practice we can begin to make long-lasting and meaningful changes that are real and will last.

If we take on board these ‘rules’, we’ll never be told, ‘No soup for you!’

Price, Value, Olympics, and Ageing

I recently went to a restaurant that I had to wait more than a year to get into. The meal cost me an arm and two legs but the wait was worthwhile: I considered that I got good value. Opinions varied, however, from customer to customer. The other day, I walked into a fast-food restaurant, got what I wanted straight away, paid the asking price, yet considered what I go was very poor value. It seems that Warren Buffett was right when he observed, ‘Price is what you pay; value is what you get’.

The Rio Olympics cost Australia more than $370 million. Some would argue that that we got good value for that price, while others would have quite a different opinion. Sure there’ll be lots of hot air expended trying to reduce any perceived gap between price and value, but you can bet we’ll be on the starting blocks at Tokyo in 2020.

So what about price and value when there is a much bigger issue at stake – adding years to life and life to years?

When it comes to growing old, the main price we pay is one of loss. Some examples could include:
. Family, friends, and contacts – they either move away or move on;
. Personal appearance qualities – hair seems to grow in many different, unwanted places;
. Mobility – no longer being able to perform all those things we used to be able to do;
. Fitness – the six pack that took years to develop is replaced by something resembling a balloon;
. Appetite – we don’t seem to eat as much as we used to;
. Sharpness – of eyesight and wit, memory loss, forgetfulness, and all that sort of thing; and
. Manyana replacing getting it over and done with, now.

The principal value is one of gain. Some examples could include:
. Experience, insight, and (hopefully) the getting of wisdom;
. More time to do those things we’ve been putting off for years;
. Learning to let go – the daily trudge down the salt mine happens no more;
. Not sweating the small stuff;
. New friendships;
. A positive attitude, especially when we realise its multiple benefits;.
. Questioning of more things as we realise that rarely are things black or white

Chances are you’ll consider that I’ve missed some examples. Share your gems, here. It’s over to Cervantes for the final word: ‘That which costs little is less valued’.

Olympics Leftover

By the time you’re reading this, the Rio Olympics will probably be done ‘n’ dusted for another four years enabling us lounge-chair experts to resume our everyday lives. It’s amazing, given the time spent by most of us watching various events and our preparedness to offer our expert opinions, a FAQ of returning-home competitors will be ‘didja win?’ (As ‘Red’ Sanders said, ‘Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing’.) And, if you define winning as being the first person across the finish line or the competitor with the best score, the answer to the question from most will be a resounding ‘NO!’

The good news for all of us oldies is that the Olympics may have instilled in us the need to exercise and get fit. For the next few weeks, gym membership, demand for personal trainers, dietary advice, and the sale of sports drinks, can be expected to increase. The most popular sources of fitness generation can expected to be those activities that rely on someone else to provide the necessary, short-term motivation. [A mate of mine (Paul) once got sacked by his personal trainer who tired of having to be the one who ‘coaxed’ Paul out of bed each day.)

You can, of course, become an active participant in a full range of athletic activities. (To date, science has been hard pressed to establish a clear cause-and-effect link between strenuous exercise and heart damage.) Studies of involvement by oldies – both male and female – show that they have become stronger and more active, rather than less, as the years go by. And, with attention, their bodies can continue to learn new skills.

The number of older athletes is growing with the aging of populations. If you’re keen on an organised activity, there’s masters and veterans competitions in Australia and the Senior Olympics in North America. Or, if your preference is activities of a less-strenuous kind, you can try going for a walk, weeding the garden, or whatever gets your pulse going. And, given that most oldies prefer to be a Jack of all sports, there seems to be nothing stopping us from getting started.

A key quality is always going to be stickability. No one else, other than you, can be expected to provide the motivation to stick at it. Gym membership declines after three months and personal trainers soon tire of being whip-crackers. In the end, it all comes down to you-know-who.

Go to Rio!

It’s Olympics time again when we get a chance to see the world’s best athletes pit their skills against each other while we surprise everyone, even ourselves, with how much we know about every sport. Hail the lounge-chair experts!

We can learn a lot from the Olympics. (Other, of course, than our parents and other teachers got it wrong when they taught us that cheats never prosper.) Consider, for example, the 7Fs; those key qualities that help us to add years to our life and life to our years. Olympians, too, can make use of the 7Fs to help inform what they must do. Here are just a few example to consider.

Food. Diet provides the fuel that enables Olympians to do what they set out to do. When we stress the importance of hunger as a key motivator, ‘hunger’ is definitely a metaphor when we’re talking about successful competing.
Fitness. Regular, targeted exercise is the great enabler – the true performance enhancer.
Friendships. We know that friendships can help to add years to our life, so competing at Rio can be life changing for many. Sport and the Olympics provide great opportunities to make life-long friendships.
Future. Always having something to look forward to is for many competing athletes, turning up at Rio, achieving a personal best, and hopefully medalling. The question for all competing athletes (and us) must then be, ‘What’s next?’
Finances. Turning up in Rio is a costly exercise both for the battling athletes and the wealthy ones. So, keeping in check those finances is most important.
Fun. Competitors as fun-seekers is not a hedonistic pursuit. Not only should competing be fun but it also is a key motivator and de-stressor.
Faith. A positive attitude is essential for successful competition. And a belief in something other than self ensures continuing focus.

Whether or not you’re an Olympians or a lounge-chair expert, age does not discriminate. We’re all participant in the ageing process. In the blink of an eye, we go from competing at Rio to forgetting the words to Peter Allen’s reference to that great city. So, when the dust settles after Rio, the challenge for all of us is to embrace Bridget Bardot’s observation, ‘It’s sad to grow old, but nice to ripen’.

Here’s hoping that Rio helps to make all of our lives riper.