My mother was an early exponent of ageing well. She lived to a healthy 92, and always weighed between 130 and 138 pounds – not that she weighed herself very often. According to the current National Health Service BMI charts she was only just within the healthy weight range for her height bordering close to overweight.
She never went on a diet in her entire life; she never learned to drive, walked daily to the local shops or used public transport to go to the nearest shopping centre. She made a point of walking every day.
Mum kept her mind active by belonging to the library and always having a book on the go. She socialised by meeting with her friends and contemporaries regularly for tea and cake. In fact she was still in touch with many of the friends she went to school with.
She suffered from arthritis in her hip and leg but her solution to the pain was to keep moving. “My hips have played me up today so I have been walking up and down the stairs”, she would tell me on my regular evening phone call.
Mum loved life, her family and counted her blessings despite the fact that she had suffered tragedy in her life. Her four sisters had all died young and she was widowed in her early 70’s. She died at 92 after a short illness. But for most of her life she was active and healthy only taking medication for hereditary high blood pressure.
She rarely drank alcohol but enjoyed many other treats and loved to quote one of her favourite songs “Enjoy yourself – it’s later than you think”. Now I realise that she was in fact doing all the things the experts tell us we should be doing today for ageing well and ageing positively.
When I worked on a newspaper, I often was sent out to interview people who had made it to their 100thbirthday.
I usually discovered they ate healthily for the most part and led active lives – although they didn’t visit the gym or run a marathon particularly. In most cases they just got on with life and enjoyed everything in moderation.
What can we learn from the longevity of a previous generation when it comes to ageing well? I think we can take the following ideas.
Healthy eating with the odd treat is the way ahead. One fish and chip supper or takeaway is not going to make an awful lot of difference, providing it doesn’t become a habit.
A little of what you fancy does you good. There is no need to ban a glass or wine or pint of beer but its good to have a couple of days a week at least when you don’t drink.
It’s not what you weigh but how you feel about yourself that matters.
Try to get regular exercise. It can be a simple as a swim in the local pool or walking to the local shops, a daily ten minute work-out or a half an hour weeding in the garden.
Volunteer for a community project or join a local group. Whether it’s a book club, U3A, Men’s Sheds – Women’s institute or Rotary. They will all give keep your mind active and sense of purpose, which in turn will combat loneliness and isolation. h