Age in Bloom

My favorite season is spring. I find joy in seeing signs of new life as little sprouts peek through the earth. Even late winter storms don’t impede their tenacity. When they bloom, it is as though they shout: “We made it!” And, like these resilient plants, it seems to me, and to others, that no matter our age, we all can experience an awakening, a time of renewal.

Each May, we celebrate Older Americans Month in honor of the countless contributions older Americans make to our communities. This year’s theme, Make Your Mark, attests to the conclusion of gerontological researchers that older people can capitalize on their long experience of living, continuing to grow, learn, engage in and enjoy life in spite of challenges they may face.  So, here are some “gardening” tips to help our continued blooming.

Take research with a grain of salt

Gene Cohen, M.D., Ph.D. and author of The Mature Mind, acknowledges that the biology of aging is basically a biology of decline. Taking a different approach, he believes that the biology of aging favors the development of wisdom, concluding that retirement is a time for climbing new hills. His recommendations? Form active links with your community, balance group and solo activities, nourish close friendships, and approach learning as a life-long activity.

Say no to society’s stereotypes

In a longitudinal study of 660 people over age 50 who were tracked for decades, researchers at Yale University’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health found that those who disagreed with the usual ageist stereotypes lived 7 1/2 years longer—a gain in longevity usually associated with low blood pressure, low cholesterol, healthy weight, regular exercise, and abstinence from smoking.

Savor the joy in life

W hen is the last time you experienced total joy? Was it age-related? Likely not. Susan, in her late 70s, was overcome with joy at her step-granddaughter’s high school graduation dinner, when her stepdaughter acknowledged to the group the deep love she and Susan had developed over the years and how important it was for the two to share in the momentous occasion. Such memories fill us with gratitude and remind us to be open to the positive in life.

Give back

Older adults have an enormous capacity to make a difference in others’ lives. Age did not stop one 91-year-old volunteer’s passion to give back. It was J.D.’s belief that everyone was obligated to volunteer.

Have fun and laugh

It’s no secret that laughing is good for our health. Whenever I see a plastic lawn flamingo, I chuckle because it reminds me of the fun dear friends and our family had over the years passing a flamingo back and forth from house to house.

My goal is to continue “making my mark.” I plan is to stay interested in the world around me, vote to make a difference, learn new things, and cherish those I care about. And, I will keep my eyes open for even more gardening tips. Will you?

Linda Henry writes regularly on topics related to aging, health care, and communication and is the co-author of several books, including Transformational Eldercare from the Inside Out: Strengths-Based Strategies for Caring.  She conducts workshops nationally on aging and creating caring work environments. Her volunteer emphasis is age-friendly communities.

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