Imagine you wake up on the day of your long-awaited vacation of a lifetime. You ride the car and head to the airport for your flight. When you get to the check-in counter, the ground staff asks for your luggage.
You forgot to load them onto the car!
You have nonrefundable tickets so you can’t miss your flight. You decide to board and just buy clothes and toiletries when you arrive at your destination. After almost two days of transiting through airports and forty-eight hours on a ship, you arrive in frigid Antarctica with nothing but the shirt on your back and a bubble jacket. The temperature outside is -38 degrees Celsius.
You already know where this vacation is heading, right?
Downhill for sure!
I doubt any sane traveler would go to a polar destination unprepared. Even just a trip to the beach means having bathing suits, cover-ups, and sunblock lotion. Some even start to diet and work out their abs months in advance so they can wear a teeny-weeny, polka-dot bikini for Boracay. And don’t forget to plan for your lodging, itinerary, activities, and meals too!
A trip becomes a big success because of good planning.
Three Factors of Successful Aging
Reaching our sunset years is a trip that all of us will hopefully take.
What do I need to prepare and plan for so I can age well?
What kind of workout should I do to ensure I will be as strong as I can be in my senior years?
What changes do I anticipate in my body as I hit menopause?
Are there things I can do to keep my brain and memory sharp?
These were some of the questions I asked myself as I neared midlife. Unfortunately, nobody teaches us how to grow old, much less plan for it.
Many people have the common sense to prepare financially for their retirement. There are even books about it, like Dean Pax Lapid’s How to Become a Happy Retiree. But like taking a vacation of a lifetime, there are other things to plan for aside from saving up the budget for the trip.
If there’s a formula to know how much you need to save and tips on where to invest to be financially secure during retirement, is there also a checklist we can follow to ensure that we will age successfully?
In my research, I’ve stumbled upon many articles and journals that have given me answers on how to prepare for my senior years. My learnings from these are what I share with you throughout this book, together with my own stories and experiences.
First on the list is a healthy body.
Golden Girls vs. Sex and the City
Humans are living longer-and looking better-these days. People Magazine compared the cast of And Just Like That, the sequel of Sex and the City, to the cast of The Golden Girls. For those of you who are too young to have watched The Golden Girls, it was an American sitcom that started to air in 1985- thirty-eight years ago, when I was in third year high school. (That’s Grade 9 in the K-12 system.)
Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte of Sex and the City fame were characters aged fifty-four to fifty-five while Golden Girls’ Rose, Sophia, Dorothy, and Blanche were characters aged forty- seven to fifty-five. But the Golden Girls look like grannies while Carrie and her friends are fit, hot, and healthy! In 1950, the life expectancy in the Philippines was fifty- four years old. That means if I were an average person alive then, I should expect to conk out any day now! Thankfully, that average has risen to seventy-two today. (Whew! But still too young to die, in my opinion.) The United Nations projects that number to rise to seventy-eight in the next fifty years.* Centenarians will also be more common in decades to come. Just think of this: Every other ten-year-old American alive today will live to be 100.5 Amazing!
But living long doesn’t necessarily translate to living well.
Since people live longer now, experts say that most of us will probably only spend three-fourths of our life in good health. The last quarter will be ridden with health issues. Knowing this statistic, we have all the more reason to prepare ourselves physically for old age.
Motion Is Lotion
My husband, Chris, and I married in our late thirties and had our kids when I was pushing forty. So, we are conscious about keeping fit to keep up with our kids as they grow. When we travel, we want to be able to do the stuff they want to try- like biking, skiing, wakeboarding, or even just those thrilling roller coasters in amusement parks.
Chris plays badminton three times a week, which gives him the aerobic exercise he needs. As for me, I religiously swim one kilometer in thirty minutes three times a week, which I’ve been doing for years. But when our clubhouse pool was renovated a few months ago, I missed out on my exercise. My joints felt like squeaky gears that threatened to screech to a halt like a machine that ran out of oil. Because “motion is lotion,” I had to find an alternative!
So, I joined Zumba classes. While I could easily keep up with the intensity of nonstop movement, my smartwatch would flag me for going over my maximum heart rate. Hmmm… so is my swimming not enough exercise?
Why We Need Strength Training
When we hit our forties, we begin to lose muscle mass by five percent every decade. That’s why old people face the risk of falling and breaking bones. But studies have shown that seniors can counteract that decline by weightlifting.”
My sisters are a tough act to follow. My eldest ate is eleven years older than me. (Shhhh! That’s classified information with national security implications!) While she has always been physically active, she only began weightlifting at the age of sixty-three during the pandemic lockdown. Two years later, she now deadlifts 166 pounds and 65 pounds overhead. Of course, she is guided by a skilled trainer who ensures that she doesn’t injure herself. It’s best to get professional help, especially if you’re starting out with any new workout.
My other ate is seven years older than me. She recently turned sixty, but don’t let her senior citizen’s card fool you. She does CrossFit workouts, and when she does her push-ups, she’s not down on the floor. She is up on the wall because she does her push-ups while on a handstand!
When I look at them, I tell myself, “When I’m sixty, I should be able to do handstand push-ups. And when I’m sixty-three, I should be able to lift 65 pounds overhead!”
What Do You Expect?
Deuteronomy 34:7 says, “Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were undimmed and his vigor unabated?” How exciting to think that even Moses’ eyesight didn’t deteriorate with age. His strength also didn’t weaken.
I believe that much of how we age depends on our expectations. My brother lives in the U.S. and his mother-in- law, Anne, is eighty-seven. She lives alone, cooks and cleans her home, and still drives too. How many eighty-seven-year-olds in the Philippines do you know who still drive for themselves? It’s because we don’t expect them to do that and, even if they’re still capable, we don’t allow them to. Instead, we take care of them by driving for them or providing a chauffeur. But in the States, because people don’t usually have other people to depend on, old people have to do things for themselves. By the way, Anne renewed her driver’s license last year and got a ten-year validity. How do we walk the path of biblical greats like Moses and ordinary people like Anne when it comes to our physical health? Let’s find out.