I have been told many times over the years that I look younger than I really am. Sometimes my age has been guessed as much as 10 years less, than what it really was at the time and it was mostly due to my physical appearance. These days however, I can no longer validate in my mind when someone tells me I look younger than I am, not from a physical stand point anyway. Having just turned 52 recently, I feel that I look every one of those years, especially when I look into the mirror and see the wrinkles that have formed around my mouth, eyes and nose from years of squinting into the sun. So now I have to rely on my mental state of mind to stay and appear younger than I am.
Having a youthful state of mind is pretty important and I think this is often overlooked. There is so much emphasis on the physical aspect of our health and not near enough on the mental part. There is so much information on how to stay healthy, fight wrinkles and old age, with products, exercise programs and foods that we are encouraged to eat. What about how we think, have fun and approach life in general? As we get older, there is an expectation on how we are supposed to act or be, to meet society’s expectations. I say screw those expectations and order what you want at the damn restaurant. Go down that huge alpine slide at the water park and go see a Rihanna concert. I personally refuse to have someone tell me how I can and cannot have fun. When I turned 50 years old I remember thinking to myself, aren’t I supposed to be smarter than this? The fact is, other than a few subtle differences, I think and feel pretty much the same as I did 20 years ago. Maybe THAT is why I seem younger than I really am, despite my body changes and wrinkles.
When I still lived in the twin cities, I took my niece Alice to the water park one day in Richfield. They had all kinds of fun things set up at this water park and I wanted to do every one of them. I was in my mid 30’s at the time. As Alice and I splashed around the pool, I saw an older woman go down one of the tube slides with what appeared to be her granddaughter. I watched her land in the water with glee, with her granddaughter sitting on her lap. They were having the best time and I remember thinking, I hope I am still going down water slides when I am this woman’s age. It was no sooner after she landed in the water at the bottom of the slide, when a lifeguard at the pool told her “she was not allowed to go down the slide” it was only for kids! What a buzz kill that was and guessing from the disappointed look on her face, she felt the same way I did. The slide was made of a heavy duty plastic, it was as large as any slide I have seen and there was plenty of room at the bottom of the slide for her to land in the water, with no kids in sight. So what was the big deal? I guess she was expected to stay at the side of the pool, on the pool chair with a magazine. I made a mental note not to return there.
When a person stops having fun, their life ultimately ends. Old age creeps up on you, only if you allow it to by acting like an old aged person. This doesn’t mean you have to wear shorts that show half of your buns hanging out or dye your hair shades of bright pastel colors to prove this point. It simply means you can continue to live your life in a youthful and fulfilled way for as long as you live, based on what you think about yourself and how you approach your life.
One of the secrets I have to staying young is to accept my age. This may sound a bit confusing based on what I just wrote, but accepting your age, keeps you from fighting it. And fighting your age WILL make you look and feel old. It has never been my goal to be 52 and try to look like I am 22, that makes me feel desperate and like I have something to apologize for. I would rather focus on looking good for my age and being the best I can be at that time, rather than be in denial about it. This way I can proudly say I’m 52, but look at me, I still go river tubing in the summer time, snow tubing in the winter, backpacking in the mountains, down the water park slide (when I am allowed to) and to rock concerts of people who are popular now, not necessarily someone who was popular 30 years ago. I don’t join “meet up groups” of people who are of a certain age and older. I connect with whom I connect with and they may be older than me and sometimes they are much younger than me. If we make a connection and enjoy hanging out, I do not care how old you are. It’s irrelevant as far as I am concerned. It will be a cold day in hell before I would ever move into a 55+ community because I need for things to be quiet and stay around those my own age. I would prefer to be around people that have a good energy and enjoy life to the fullest, in the same way that I do, regardless of their age.
Kio and I had a good friend named Jo Strait who lived in the apartment next to ours when we lived in Toluca Lake California. For a time Jo was the manager at this complex and whenever she needed help with her TV or some other issue, Kio and I were always there to help her out. Jo was around 70 years old when we met her and she loved to be around younger people. It was what kept her young. She still had the classiness and morals of a woman of her age, but she had a youthful approach to life and liked to participate in any of the parties that we had at our place. The apartment building we were living in eventually sold to a new owner and everyone was given notice to move out, because they wanted to renovate the building and raise the rent much higher. We all scrambled to new places, including Jo. She was depressed about it because the only thing she could afford at that time was a 55+ community and she told me repeatedly she wanted to stay where the young people were. I felt bad for her and promised her we would keep in touch and continue to do things together. I kept my promise on this, but Jo unfortunately over a period of time in her new 55+ community, slipped away and did less and less with the younger people.
Jo did eventually get settled into her new place and even though it turned out to be OK for her, we did notice a big change in her personality. She wasn’t calling us as much, unless she needed a ride to the doctor or an appointment. She was not willing to go out and attend events and parties as much anymore either. It had slowed her way down once she moved into the older community and her fountain of youth and the very energy she had fed off of to stay young, was no longer there. She aged rapidly and passed away about 5 years later. We missed her terribly, but mostly I missed the person that she was.
If you want to stay young at heart and in your mind, then laugh a little louder and a little longer. This type of youthful approach to life will spill over into your physical appearance as well. Make Betty White your “stay young icon”, because Betty has it all figured out and that is why people love her. If someone asked me how old Betty White was, I couldn’t tell you because I rarely focus on Betty’s age, I am too busy marveling at her youth.