I’m Not Getting Older, I’m Getting Better!

I am a Baby Boomer, born smack dab in the middle of the 1950s, and I just turned 55 years old on August 19. “Yippee!” Yes, you heard me right! I exclaimed, “Yippee!”

Back when I was about to turn 25, a quarter of a century sounded old to me, like some dire pronouncement of being “TOO OLD” for fun anymore! Unlike “24” which still sounded like I could move back in with my parents at any moment. But “25”, well, that meant I had both feet firmly planted in the adult world and there’d be no turning back, like it or not! But I liked it! I was young, thought I was sophisticated working in Manhattan and felt quite invincible.

Then 35 drew close. Getting older was getting better! I was holding my breath each month, hoping that the test strip would turn blue. Much to our delight it did, just in time to be the perfect 35th birthday present! I think I exclaimed “Yippee!” back then, too. Except it was an excited scream and sounded more like, “Ohhhhh myyyyy Goddddd, Jimmmmm!!!!!”

I barely noticed turning 45. I’d been a widow for a little over two years by then. The idea of celebrating anything, let alone my birthday, still took quite a bit of effort. For the kid’s sake, I put on my Happy Face, ate the cake they baked and opened their lovingly designed cards. My ooohing and aaahing could have won an Oscar. But inside I was still raw and shaky. No, 45 was not a banner year.

But this birthday? 55? This is one birthday for which I’m truly happy and grateful because I have much to celebrate! Both daughters are in college and doing beautifully in their lives, a new career that I love and finally some spare time to pursue a few hobbies I put on the back burner during previous years.

Visibly, I certainly show signs of my age – crepey skin around my eyes, liver spots here and there, thickening fingers from osteoarthritis and a thicker, post-menopausal middle. Oh, and let’s not forget invisibly – succumbing to reading glasses, annoying hot flashes and straining to hear conversations in noisy crowds. Yet, these are minor inconveniences I gladly bear, because otherwise I’m faring pretty well in the aging department.

Whenever I’m told about ailments, illnesses, surgeries and treatments suffered by women in my age group, especially those whom I know and love, I count my blessings. In addition to filling me with abundant gratitude for my wellness, their stories, and others I’ve read, instill in me the determination and discipline TO DO – and NOT TO DO things that won’t serve my goal.

My goal is to reach a ripe old age, say 90 or more, and not need medications or surgery and to still be living on my own without assistance!

Oh, I know…that’s a lot to expect! But I’m gladly willing to pay the price to get there.

I follow a vegan diet about 90% of the time. I still have fish or chicken occasionally, treat myself to dribs and drabs of cheese on salad or pasta every now and then, love a dollop of Greek yogurt on fresh fruit, and don’t go crazy if there’s egg or milk listed low in a product’s ingredient list. In other words, I’ve chosen to follow a mostly vegan diet for my health, not because I MUST.

I make it a practice to READ ingredient labels, and avoid buying the majority of pre-packaged items, especially those with words I can’t pronounce! I drink very little alcohol (an occasional glass of red wine), drink plenty of water, green and herbal teas, both hot and iced. I walk for an hour in the morning 5 times a week and do 45 minutes of strength training or yoga on alternate evenings. I make sure I get an adequate amount of sleep most nights and take high-quality, nutritional supplements every day, all year long.

Sound like a lot to do and keep track of? If I had tried to do it all at once, I would have failed. In fact, I did fail many, many times over the years because I tried to change everything and do everything all at once. Most people won’t be successful that way. It’s taken me years to become comfortable and more consistent with my commitment to my health and wellness. I’m still a work in progress, and I don’t tell myself “never” or “always” because I know I’ll feel like a failure if I break those hard and fast rules.

After watching my father die from bladder cancer, month-after-torturous-month, it got a lot easier for me to stick with my personally chosen Health and Wellness Plan. It’s not rocket science. It is good, old-fashioned, common-sense eating and living. And though I certainly don’t want to become a burden to my daughters or loved ones, or have them witness me in a grueling and gut-wrenching spiral downward from cancer, diabetes, stroke or a combination of those diseases, my true motivation is “Life”!

I want to be able to swim in the ocean, climb a flight of stairs, play with my dogs, dig in my garden, clean my own house (okay – maybe I’ll give that one up!), tie my own shoes, carry my own suitcase, play with my future grandchildren and keep up with them as they grow! Not to mention completing the 40+ items on my bucket list! I’m very grateful for my healthy body and mind – and I’m willing to take steps to insure that, like a fine wine, I get better as I get older!

I’m truly looking forward to 65, 75, 85 and yes, if I can make it to 95 with my health and mental faculties intact, even 95. Heck, why limit myself to 95? I’d be ecstatic to celebrate 105! I’ll go for as long as the Good Lord gives me…I just want to be well and be happy!

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