Commentary: "Getting Older" Doesn't Have to be "Getting Old"


By Dickie Anderson

Approaching my 80th birthday this spring, I am determined to do everything possible to keep the engine running. The Big Guy and I both read and watch any programming that focuses on the challenges of aging and the strategies that help. We agree there is more to celebrate than to complain about.

Experts repeat that exercise and diet should be an important part of everyday life, especially for so-called seniors. Exercise at our house takes different forms. My critical everyday exercise is my early morning Jazzercise class. I join equally motivated friends who follow the directions of Jazzercise franchisee and teacher Karen Theodore. Jazzercise combines dancercise, martial arts, and strength training with popular music for a full-body workout. It offers lots of pluses. Not just a great workout but sharing the experience with an amazing collection of women who exercise and are there when bad stuff comes along. Another bonus for this grandmother is listening to contemporary music and learning to appreciate performers like Taylor Swift and Pit Bull. My grandkids are impressed.

Big Guy's exercise is more limited. Like so many men his age, he is hindered by neuropathy, which limits feeling in his feet and legs as well as affecting his balance. Swimming has been a go-to exercise option. He recently purchased a tricycle and found he can balance and exercise well. Once past concern about ridicule for riding a "trike," he is proud of his neighborhood outings. He also does some mat exercises to ensure he can get up from a fall if need be!

Everyone needs to find what works for them. There are lots of options for regular exercise. Both the YMCA and Council on Aging offer a wide variety of exercise choices. For chronic issues, your doctor can recommend physical therapy.

Falling is a big fear for both of us. Imbalance, a missed curb, and a dog pulling on a leash can quickly cause a catastrophe. We pay attention to all the suggestions for "seniorizing" our homes. Removing loose rugs on the floor and installing railings and pull bars in bathrooms are a few things that can help. We eliminated stairs years ago by moving to a one-floor house and are determined to age in place.

Exercising the mind is also critical. Puzzles offer a stimulating diversion. Before my morning exercise, I am online doing Wordle (a wonderful, addictive daily word puzzle available online). Big Guy starts the day scanning several papers and following certain college and pro football teams.

There are lots of local opportunities to exercise your brain. We have found that Amelia Lifelong Learning offers interesting courses, including worldwide affairs, literature, fishing, and even cooking. Council on Aging is also a rich resource offering a fantastic menu of classes, including exercise, crafts, and discussion.

It is essential to get out and do. Our island has so much to offer that is easy to get to, inexpensive and entertaining. We enjoy our theater outings – and appreciate that we have two theaters to choose from. Your favorite music? You name it, and we have a music festival that celebrates it. We now have opera, not only chamber music and jazz. And there is the Book Festival and the island's own Mardi Gras: the Shrimp Festival.

Our appetites are smaller, and we need less food daily. Neither is inclined to cook a big meal, so we keep it simple. We added an air fryer to our kitchen appliances, which is a great investment. Things take less time and are, in many cases, more tasty than oven-cooked food. I am a fruit person, and Big Guy is about veggies. Each tries to encourage the other to cross over at least for one meal.

We have grown to appreciate our age. There are challenges, but we are determined to live our best lives. Big Guy had a recent check-up and asked the doctor why this and that were bothering him. The doctor smiled and responded, "Remember, you have 80,000 miles on you!" So, just like our automobiles, we need to take care of our bodies and keep up with necessary maintenance.

So, 80 years along, here I come!

age, Fernandina, Florida, golden years