Thursday, September 13, 2007
Positive aging
On a stiflingly hot day late last month, a group of mourners celebrated a life well lived. "Martha was a fine woman," said the preacher. And she was. Miss Martha, as we are fond of saying in the South, was just good people. Never married, Martha dedicated her life to helping others. She helped set up one of the first homeless shelters in Atlanta. Martha made people feel special.

Even though Martha was 75, she seemed younger -- younger than some 30 year olds I know. As the preacher reminded us, Martha had taught classes on "positive aging" at a local retirement home. Driving home, I started thinking about attitude and aging. I did a little research and decided to call some experts. "Those who are under the most stress have higher mortality," says Dr. Brian Carpenter, who studies aging at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. "A positive attitude has been shown to lead to reduced stress hormones, hypertension and blood pressure. It's also beneficial to the immune system." Another study found that seniors with positive emotions are less likely to become frail.

But as my grandma is fond of saying, "Growing old is not for sissies." As our bodies break down, it can be hard to keep a positive attitude and look towards the future. "You need to be circumspect about things that can be changed and can't be changed," says Carpenter. "You want to have some control... but don't beat your head against the wall over the things you can't change."

While we can't control growing old, we can choose how we are going to live. One of the things I always admired about Martha was her passion for learning. She had the curiosity of a child. Martha also invested in the people around her. Keeping friendship networks strong as we age is extremely important, says Dr. Carpenter. Looking out at the congregation, I was struck by the diversity of friends Martha had made over the years. Some she had known since she was a schoolteacher in the 1950s; others were young women she met through her volunteer work.

I am grateful for the lessons of Martha's life. I will miss the twinkle in her eye. Martha indeed was a good woman. Do you have a "Martha" in your life? What do you think is the secret to staying happy as we grow older?
Yes, your attitude has everthing to do with how well you age. I'm a 56 year old female and everyone around me thinks I'm 35 and that my grand kids are mine they range from 2 years to 15 years. I am always happy and and being happy and having a positive attitude about everything is the whole ball of wax.
Hi Jen:

I am blessed to have several ladies like Martha in my life. These folks never know a stranger, they are warm and friendly and always willing to help.

My goal is to be more like them. I hope to continue to help others over the years and make the world a better place.

I have to say at 40 I feel like a mature 20.
My two grandmothers are a pellucid example of "negative aging" versus "positive aging."

One grandmother has been experiencing a deep bout of loneliness since the death of my grandfather for years ago, and, despite participating in her community's council and living within one hour of most of her family members, is frequently bitter and has shown alcoholic tendencies.

Conversely, my other grandmother lives in Texas, far from any of her family aside from her husband. She is an extremely healthy woman, something that can be attributed to her high self-esteem and upbeat attitude.
I have just read Dr Gupta's "Chasing Life", which says staying healthy is the most important for a happy life. Yes, it is essential. Then, I think doing the things that you love would jump-start your mental energy.
I firmly believe you are as old as you feel. I am 36, my brother is 2 years younger then me and he acts like he is 60. Age is just a number and I have never cared what the number said. I have known many Marthas. They take care of themselves and others around them. I hope to live up to their examples.

Melina - Gilbert, AZ
Let me tell you the story of two older ladies who live in the same YWCA as me. Like your friend Martha, neither ever married. One is around 80; the other, about 70. They couldn't be more different, and yet the way they approach their lives have much to teach us. The lady who's 70 spent her life teaching music. The other lady worked in New York, and returned home to become the PR director for a local, bustling town in Ohio. Being independent seems to have served them well in the past, but the older lady did it for her job, the other lady for enjoyment, and that has made a huge difference in their aging...

Neither have family left, and with their ages getting up there, have faced various health crisis from totally opposite directions. The older lady kind of seems to have given up and taken on more of a pity me role, and it makes me so sad because I think she's refusing to take care of her health because the other lady got attention after her hip replacement--and now, after losing 10 pounds, the older woman's frail body will never be the same again. The younger lady, however, has faced painful health crisis with more verve, less self-pity, and I'd bet anything that her outlook, even at 80, will be better than her friend's, just because she knows that half of aging means you got to take care of yourself, plus keep up your social contacts too. Because I'm not married and have no family left, I'd rather live the end of my life like my 70 year old friend--nobody lives forever, so it's all about the quality. And yet I admire the spunk of my 80 year old friend, on the rare occasions she shows it anymore. If I could have half her spunk and smile like the other lady, I'll maybe become the old lady of my dreams.
Old folks need the grace of God in their lives. That's all that matters amen.
I think that there are people with the ability to make other people feeling better.They have been chosen by God to spread light and hope.They are an example of courage and give up just to learn how stay up better.In my life I have known 2 marthas:my English teacher ,at my first year of university,and my mother.Staying happy is very difficult today,but keeping calm and be patient are the keys to reach happyness.Marthas occur to teach these.
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