6 STEPS TO SLOW THE MENTAL AGING PROCESS
Photo at left is of my mother December 2008 at age 97. She passed away on March 19, 2009.
Photo at right is my friend Winnie who will be 101 on October 8, 2011.
Why do we get old? Can we slow the mental aging process?
I don’t mean in years, but the inner person, the all-encompassing thing that is the ‘real me’. Is there really a way that we can slow the process of mental aging? Some people seem old at fifty, spending their time in front of the television watching soaps and sit-coms, filling themselves with chips and pop–or worse, smoking and drinking alcohol.
And then there are those, like my friend Winnie, who, on October 8 will celebrate her 101st birthday. The mental aging process has slowed in her life. Up until the beginning of 2009 she was still doing volunteer work in the General Store at a chronic care hospital–serving coffee and running the cash register! My mother, who lived with me for nearly five years, was able to look after herself almost until she died. Obviously the slow aging process was visible in her life, too. She ran her own home , alone , for 20 years before she broke her hip and moved here in 2004. Winnie has a friend who is about 105, and it was only a couple of years ago that she was still in her own home and entertaining her friends. As a result of a broken shoulder, she now lives in a retirement home. Yes, we can slow the aging process if we follow certain life-style principles.
Have you ever wondered what makes the difference? What, exactly, slows the mental aging process?
I realize our genetic make-up plays a major role in how many years we live. Disease can age the body long before its time. Excessive amounts of unhealthy stress can over-burden our systems and short-circuit our life-span as well. Unless we put in the effort to change those things in our lives that are contributing to early desease, aging and death, we will not be able to slow the mental aging process in our lives.
Healthy living contributes to longevity. (By the way, what do you call it when longevity isn’t the outcome–shortevity?) To a large extent, the food we eat dictates the outcome of our lives. Eat at fast food restaurants several days a week and it will very likely lead to an early grave. As the old saying goes, we are what we eat. And exercise–that’s important, too, as is adequate sleep. There are many good nutritional supplements available today that also help to slow the mental aging process. Reishi mushroom, an ingredient in Healthy Coffee, is one that will improve not only mental capacity but also will improve physical problems and help prevent age-related diseases and conditions. Music can also play a part in how our brain operates and can relax our body as well as mind. But there seems to be something more than that needed to slow the mental aging process.
I believe our state of mind plays a giant role in how fast we age and how many years we live. In other words, how we think is directly related to whether we slow the mental aging process or speed it up. The Bible says that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21 NASB) Proverbs 23:7 (NASB) says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” If you think and speak negative things, death will be the result. Maybe not immediately in the final sense of the word, but gradual death to the mind, the body and the spirit. It will probably cause a disintegration of relationships as well. But when you think and speak positively, you produce life. And I’m not talking about just speaking, by rote, a lot of motivational quotes. We have to believe what we say and think and we have to carry it into every part of our lives. It has to become a way of life. A positive mind-set.
People who feel they are not needed lose interest in life far more quickly than those who have others relying on them, be it family, an employer, friends, it doesn’t really matter who or the reason why. As long as human beings feel useful, they find purpose in living. Take away that usefulness and you take away their reason for life. Those who keep their minds active are more apt to keep their bodies active, thus slowing the mental aging process exponentially.
Winnie began volunteering at Parkwood Hospital in 1975, the month after she officially retired from a job she held for nearly 50 years. She visited the residents, took them shopping, accompanied them to the Western Fair every fall. She helped at the strawberry socials, the monthly birthday parties. When she could no longer do these things, she spent every Monday afternoon working in the General Store at the hospital. She was their oldest volunteer. She has always been involved in church. She loves the Lord and has followed Him for more than 7 decades. Now, if she can’t find someone to take her out every day she’s not a happy camper. Though she has slowed down physically and is now somewhat unsteady on her feet, she still keeps going–and still refuses to take her cane or walker when she goes out! Though her eyesight has dimmed, she still reads and watches some TV though her hearing has deteriorated.
We had quite a scare one day this past January. I took her shopping, as usual (we do this every other Wednesday), and while she was pushing the grocery cart to the car, it must have hit something on the uneven pavement and it tipped over, throwing her to the ground as a result. I was only a few steps away, going to open the car door for her. She smacked the side of her forehead hard on the pavement. But, after only 2 hours in the emergency department she was home. By Saturday she accepted an invitation out for dinner. You just can’t keep this lady down! The mental aging process has slowed down to a greater degree than her mind and body have slowed.
So, my advice to anyone who wishes to slow the mental aging process in order to have a long, productive and satisfying life is to feed your mind with positive, challenging things . Make sure you spend some quality time with family and friends–even, sometimes, with people you don’t know well. Don’t be afraid to try something new even if you think you are too old. At age 66, much of the technology of the age appears daunting to my technologically-challenged mind. But here I am, after setting up this web site with little outside help (except the Lord). And I have been blogging away for almost two years now –just as if I had been doing it for years, first in e-Blogger, then with a network blog, and now here. And just this week I set up another web site just for fun! Best of all, I feel invigorated by the process. I’m excited about what I’m doing, and challenged to continue. Things suddenly look different. My creativity is flowing free. I’ve learned my lesson. I’m slowing the mental aging process.
We’re never too old to learn.
6 Steps you can take to slow mental aging:
- Keep feeding your body healthy nutrition.
- Exercise in whatever way suits your schedule and physical condition best.
- Get enough hours quality sleep each night and keep mentally active.
- Feed your mind with healthy, positive thoughts.
- Spend time with people who will stimulate your mind.
- Try something new: take a course, start a hobby, anything that will keep your interest.