Healthy aging

Teen Janet ©Janet Allen
Janet many decades ago

As much as we hate to admit it, we're getting older—along with the rest of the baby boomers (although John predates us boomers a bit).

We boomers have always had a disproportionate impact on our society, sometimes good and sometimes not.

We've also been the beneficiaries of the many blessings provided by an affluent society.

Now we realize, though, that they've come with hidden costs, which are being externalized to our children's and grandchildren's generations.

Teen John ©Janet Allen
John even more decades ago

We have an obligation to these generations (and to ourselves) to maintain our mental and physical health as long as we can to achieve a "rectangular" life: really living throughout our whole life, then quickly exiting.

While we still have healthy minds and bodies, we plan to accomplish as much we can to create a better world.

Unfortunately, no one has complete control of this, but we're doing all we can to be active and a contributing member of society as long as possible.

We keep a list of people still engaged in life and contributing to society even into their 90s. People like Diane Rehm are great role models, but people we know are more accessible examples. And they're an inspiring bunch!

Our 3 x 3 Body, Mind, and Soul plan

Our red carrots ©Janet Allen
Our home-grown phytonutrient-rich red carrots

The first "3" of the "3" is basic care of our body.

1) We eat a healthy diet (in our case, mostly vegetarian and Mediterranean). Food is not only an important part of keeping us healthy, but also an important part of keeping the planet healthy. (More info is in our Food section and in Our Edible Garden website.)

Stairs are free exercise ©Janet Allen
I'm now thinking of our stairs as another exercise opportunity

2) We try to faithfully exercise— aerobic, strength, and balance exercises (though John is better at exercising).

In addition to formal exercise, we build as much exercise into our daily lives as possible, such as taking the stairs instead of elevators, parking at the far end of parking lots, intentionally exercising while gardening (i.e. lunges while weeding etc.) and in as many other activities in daily life as possible.

3) More and more research confirms that getting enough sleep is important not just for the body but also for the mind.

A Suzuki parent ©Janet Allen
As a Suzuki parent, John learned to play the violin (before switching to the viola) along with our son

The second "3" of the "3" is taking care of our minds.

For a while we joined Lumosity, but decided that it's not as powerful as some other more basic activities.

Instead, we've participated in these other mental exercises:

1) Meditation (very challenging!)

2) Playing an instrument (John plays the viola; Janet the piano)—research shows unique benefits for the brain for people of all ages. See the sidebar for some interesting research.

3) Learning Spanish using Duolingo (see more on the collaboration page).

Poetry ©Janet Allen
One of our first poems to memorize, marked up to help me learn it

Some other things we've done for our minds:

  • Memorizing Billy Collins poems.
  • Playing strategy games, such as our favorites, Carcassone and Ticket to Ride as well as a daily three rounds of Boggle. (And we've kept years worth of our Boggle scores to detect any mental slide.)
HGCNY ©Janet Allen
John wearing our HGCNY apron

The third "3" of the "3" is taking care of our soul, i.e. beyond our own selves.

1) We communicate through presentations (Janet on habitat gardening and John on edible gardening), by writing articles, and by trying to keep our websites up-to-date (that's a challenge)! We also read non-fiction books on topics of interest.

2) We participate in community activities and groups of various kinds, such as HGCNY, our Wild Ones chapter, and for John, participating in community bicycle advocacy.

Three grandchildren ©Janet Allen
Our three grandsons

We sometimes enroll in courses, such as at our local community college. In New York State, seniors can audit public college courses for free. And, of course, online college courses are also available now. We also have belonged to Toastmasters, both for the social benefits as well as the challenge of crafting and delivering interesting speeches.

3) Of course our two children and three grandchildren provide the most important connection to the world beyond ourselves — not only now but into the future, after we're gone.

All in all, there's little reason not to remain active physically, intellectually, and socially since many or most of these activities are free or low-cost.

What we do **NOT** do

TV ©Janet Allen
Our old, seldom-used TV

Watch television or engage in similarly passive activities!

And we're also leery of medications. Certainly the right medicine at the right time can be life-saving, but we're skeptical of the value of many oft-prescribed medicines or even surgery.

I deeply regret having knee surgery, for example, which did nothing to help my torn meniscus. A single steroid shot, many months after the unsuccessful surgery, completely cured it, and that was back in 2008.

We're "lucky" that we take no blood pressure, cholesterol or other commonly-prescribed medicines (but since they treat generally preventable lifestyle-related maladies, we don't believe it's all "luck.")

And some "alternative" remedies are quite effective (for example, my gin-soaked raisins for arthritis and John's soap-in-the-bed for restless legs). Whether placebo effect or not (and I don't think they are), they're inexpensive and harmless and the results are good with no side effects.