Want to Feel Vital? Stay Involved!

My husband and I just returned from a once in a lifetime trip to New Zealand we had dreamed of for years. We made arrangements through The Splendid Traveler where Alicia Saba specializes in customized travel in New Zealand and Australia and she took our preferences and produced an ideal itinerary! We had a fabulous time and walked an average of 5-7 miles a day and we were thankful to be in shape to do it. We had agreed that now was the time to take advantage of the investment we have made in our health and fitness and fulfill some of those dreams before age slows us down.

In our travels, we were blessed with expert guides, some young, some older, but they all had one thing in common. They were excited and enthused to do what they were doing. The young people because the job kept them outdoors and doing what they loved in a way that financed their travels and adventures, and the older people (often retired) because they enjoyed how it kept them engaged with other people and added to their incomes. We were inspired by the backgrounds (Retired University Professor, Retired Business Owner, Renaissance Woman with Masters Degrees in Multiple Disciplines) of these folks who gave us up to a day of their time for each excursion!

Our guide in Christchurch (Fiona Newsome of Canterbury Guiding Co.) was an outstanding example. She was a little younger than us and spent two days making our excursions in that area outstanding. Her energy, intellect, creativity, and ability to think on her feet was inspiring to us. She planned ahead and told us all about what we were seeing in a way that was entertaining and knowledgeable. She thought about parking logistics, the next place to have a restroom stop, and where the best possible place to grab lunch was while seeming to enjoy things as much as we did.

As we climbed the steep drive to the Giant’s House in Akaroa (after a fabulous boat tour around the harbor that featured dolphins, seals, and even a fast little penguin), she shared her individual story of meeting and forming a friendship with the very talented but also incredibly reclusive artist (Josie Martin) who created all of the art we got to wander through. It was a fantastic experience, filled with color, unexpected delights, and surrounded by the fragrance of the artist’s gardens that were everywhere. It was unforgettable but could have been perfunctory without Fiona’s perspective and stories.

My point is that Fiona (in Christchurch), Katie at the Zealandia Preserve, our Te Papa Museum guide Rangmoana (I will not guarantee that spelling!), our lovely guide Ann, from Zest food tours (all in Wellington), and countless other people who made our trip special could have decided to retire and keep their gifts to themselves. Instead, they put them to work in a way that keeps them involved and excited and makes them a treat to those of us who get to meet them.

What did we learn? 

When you have a purpose and stay connected with other people, it makes your daily life more exciting and even if you may not live longer…there will be more life in your days!

Aging in a Great Way

I have been fortunate to learn about aging through reading, and also through friends who are involved with AGE of Central Texas. AGE is a nonprofit that believes in the vision of “a society where aging is a shared journey marked by connection, strength, and vitality, and the role of caregiving is supported through the community, collaboration, and guidance.” This plays out concretely in programs that provide social and wellness centers, education for caregivers, memory work, computer labs for seniors, and even a health equipment lending program.

My husband and I learned of AGE while his mother was declining and experiencing so many of these issues and although we were not the on-site caregivers for his mom, we were able to share some practical tips we learned and eventually we got my mother (who lives locally) interested in volunteering with the nonprofit. Her participation is intermittent, depending on how she is feeling, but when she goes she is energized by the experience. She spends time in the Thrive Social & Wellness Center talking with participants and answering the phone and she loves it. Continue reading

Dementia Decisions

NYT Article Image - Evan McGlinnMore of us are living longer, and sometimes our bodies are in better shape than our minds as we hit 80-90 years and beyond of age. I am seeing this dynamic in my mother-in-law, who is 92 and can still walk a mile and a half around a mall with few breaks, but who experiences memory gaps that frighten her and challenge that brilliant mind that conquered crosswords in pen and dominated all of us in Scrabble not so long ago.

Seeing her change and decline has been a life lesson to all of us that this may be our future as well, and we need to think now about how we want our lives to be then. Continue reading

Want to Think Young? Mentor!

canstockphoto28358255I am sure I echo many members of my generation who express the feeling, “I don’t feel as old as I am!” 

We look in the mirror and see the inevitable downward slide of gravity’s toll, the wrinkles or fine lines that our frolics in the sun have left us as souvenirs, and sometimes we see the fatigue that lingers in eyes that have seen pain, sadness, and struggle. But when we look away from that mirror and assess ourselves, we are often shocked by the mismatch between the image we have seen and the way we feel inside. I don’t know about you, but I am enjoying that immensely!

I have found the secret to the fountain of youth and it may be available to you wherever you are and whatever you are doing. It is thinking young. Continue reading