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Staying Positive Over 50

I’m rather fond of metaphors to describe the manner in which the old bod slips as we age:  “Well Doc, you know what they say, after 50 it’s either framing or plumbing … take your pick!!"

Actually most of us don’t have the luxury of picking.  As I look around at my friends (we’re all in our 60s now) they seem to fall, not uniformly, but fairly predictably, into two camps.  If one is physically active throughout one’s life, it seems the framing goes first, (I’ve had both hips replaced, both knees replaced, foot and shoulder surgeries and I’m a full one inch shorter than I was the day I was married in 1976) followed shortly thereafter by the plumbing.   If one is a couch potato and raising one’s arm to aim the remote presents an almost insurmountable physical challenge, its likely that the plumbing will go first (most Doctors will agree that that the onset of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, early onset Alzheimer’s and even cancer, have at least something to do with inactive lifestyle or can be delayed through a regimen of age appropriate physical activity).

We are such a youth obsessed culture are we not?  I used to think it was essentially a by-product of my inclusion in that most notorious of demographics, the post war baby boom, and as a chronological consequence, the philosophy we today call hippy-dom.  There are a number of core understandings that define what has been colloquially called the hippy movement. These we need not explore here.  Suffice it to say that a rejection of age related experience and by proxy, age itself is high on the list.  We can see this ingrained attitude carry over to occasional outburst of contempt we neo hippies feel for the institutions we have placed in positions of authority over us, from politicians through to medical practitioners.
We are loath indeed to accept limitations that age places upon us.  We continue to indulge the misguided belief that just a few more sessions on the old exercise bike and we’ll be returning triumphantly to the octagon, once again to roundhouse kick our juniors into submission.  
One may call such conjecturing fanciful, but it exposes a very real danger, a danger exploited by those who would sell us something in order that they might perpetuate our myth that age is no barrier to the fulfillment of our dreams. (no matter how unrealistic some of those dreams may be)
We all have a habit of understanding a thing by examining the exceptions to it, not the rules.  That’s why we buy lottery tickets.  It’s why we continue to smoke. (though God bless us, in greatly diminished numbers)  It’s why we don’t get colonoscopies when we should.  It’s also why we cling to the fanciful instead of to the realistic.  We can all cite the example of the exception, the 85 year old mogul skier, the 90 year old marathoner, and of course the 95 year old who attributes his longevity to the consumption of a quart of Bourbon and several cigars everyday.  These are not the rules and none of us should decide to model our dreams and our inevitable disappointments upon those exceptions.
The key to remaining positive over 50 isn’t fantasy; it’s adaptation: the one quality we can never have too much of.  We can still be black belts; we’ll leave the octagon to the more sprightly.  We can still be skiers; we’ll leave the moguls to those a little more robust.  We can walk briskly or run modestly; we’ll leave the track dashes to Usain Bolt.  (as he will in his turn leave them to another)
As wonderful as it is, adaptation is an idea that implies passivity.  The second part of the positive over 50 equations is embrace.  Embrace the joy of others on those moguls; embrace the adult children and the grandchildren; yes embrace even the fact that since you turned 50 you have hair growing everywhere except where you’d like some.  As the wonderful Bette Davis has told us: “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”
Your present author …
Age 63
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