Making 90 the New 60

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Years ago, it seemed once someone rounded the corner from 59 to 60 years of age, talks of slowing down, retiring and settling into a less active and ambitious lifestyle were the norm. After all, it wasn’t as if most folks were hitting their stride at that time in their lives.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and we have an entirely different mindset about aging. It’s not unusual now for people in their 70s, 80s and 90s to take up new hobbies, develop new interests, and sometimes even pursue a second career! Although my late grandfather, an attorney, used to quip, “I need to transition from the judicial bench to the park bench,” he never really took the time to consider retirement. He enjoyed his work and loved to interact with people; he worked in the legal arena until his early 90s and was a prime example of how one’s age shouldn’t be a deterrent to staying active and involved in life.

How does one sail into his or her 90s and stay in top form, or, at the very least, in decent enough shape physically and mentally to keep the motor running? Referred to as nonagenarians, these individuals who are still taking charge of their lives share many common denominators. Granted, many elite agers indicated good genes gave them quite an assist, and one study reported many subjects of the study had fewer genes associated with heart disease, the number one killer of men and women.

In addition to genetics, it’s important to stress that dreaded four-letter word: diet. The world’s oldest yoga teacher, Tao Porchon-Lunch, 99, says she has maintained healthy eating habits that have allowed her to continue pursuing her passions. She credits portion size for helping her to manage her weight, noting it’s important to not put too much food on your plate and overeat. Concentrate on a diet rich in age-fighting compounds such as antioxidants and heart-healthy omega-3s, shown to ward off certain diseases and protect DNA against damage.

A significant part of aging also takes place in your head. You know the saying, “You are only as old as you feel.” There is great truth in that sentiment! A positive mindset will serve you well, physically, mentally and emotionally. Spend less time thinking about what you can’t do and more time concentrating on what you can do. Florence “Seesee” Rigney, the oldest nurse in the U.S., is still helping people, a passion she credits for giving her lifelong joy and sustainability.

Subscribe to a fit and active lifestyle. Being a couch potato or lounge chair jockey won’t get you very far. Exercise is key to maintaining your health and it’s highly beneficial for your brain. Exercise also reduces stress, regulates blood sugar and improves blood flow. The late British nonagenarian Charles Eugster took up exercise in his 80s and ran competitively into his 90s, working out at least three times a week. His workouts included weight-bearing exercises, running and rowing. He liked to refer to his physique as his “beach body.” Prior to his death at 97 in 2017, he was a track and field sprint athlete who competed as a Master’s athlete for Great Britain.

It’s no secret active people in their 90s and even 100s provide excellent models of healthy aging. Age should not be viewed as the enemy, something to be battled. No, we cannot avoid it, but growing older sure beats the alternative! Among the key secrets to thriving in your 90s and beyond is simply to stay active. Even if you have to relinquish some of your freedom, such as giving up the car keys, it’s possible to find other modes of transportation, such as public transportation.

One of the most important super powers to maintain is your sense of humor, coupled with a strong spiritual belief system. Nonagenarians have demonstrated the ability to “renegotiate at any turn and accept losses and changes that come.” After all, it is impossible, really, to reach the age of 90 or older without having had some adversity in life.

Obviously, there’s no guarantee that if you follow any of these examples you will easily slide into your 90s, but you can give yourself an edge. Plus, it will make your journey so much more enjoyable. Now is the time to do what inspires you, whether it is a paying endeavor or not. Alongside that motivation, remain moderate in what you eat and drink. Move your body more and as often as you can, bearing in mind your own physical limitations, and reach out to others in your community, no matter their age. Staying involved in your life is a highly integral part of making your 90s perhaps even better than your 60s! ■