The secret to aging gracefully

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Sabrina Almeida

Mississauga, April 22 (CINEWS): I had the privilege of attending a birthday celebration for a 106-year-old last Friday. As I watched Sant Girn listen to the congratulatory messages, poems and folk songs (she sang a few lines later) that graced the occasion, I wondered if I’d be as sprightly and alert at her age. Many of my nuts and bolts are already showing signs of wear at less than half her years. This caused me to ponder about what it meant to age gracefully. A few ladies (and gentlemen) that I have encountered over the years came to mind and I believe that if I am able to pick out their most distinguishing elements, I might have the perfect recipe to follow.

Cheerful disposition

Having a cheery attitude doesn’t just make you a nice person to be around, it also reduces your risk of a heart attack. According to a study in The American Journal of Cardiology, positive well-being was associated with nearly a 1/3 reduction in coronary artery disease (CAD) in a high-risk population with a positive family history and a nearly 50% reduction in incident CAD in the highest risk stratum. Now that should give you and me plenty of reason to smile, right?
Some staffers of the India Rainbow Community Services where Girn attends the adult day program, believe this to be one of the secrets of her long life. They say that they have almost never seen her angry or upset.
Another octogenarian that I know exemplifies this mantra. In spite of the challenges life has thrown her way including an alcoholic and abusive husband who has passed on and a good-for-nothing son who has several run-ins with the law, she is a picture of serenity and good cheer. It’s a pleasure to meet and spend time with her. Hence, I solemnly resolve to consume one generous helping of this positive attitude to last me for the whole day, every day.

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Active lifestyle

We all know someone who has spent most of their life working hard–be it at home, on the land or in the workplace. While most of us get weary just thinking about all that they do, their active lifestyle is probably one of the reasons
for their seemingly good health and longevity. My grandmother-in-law died a little after she turned 90. She was regal and beautiful, like Queen Elizabeth as I liked to tease her. I believe her energetic disposition contributed to her
long life. Having lived and cared for herself for a greater part of her life on a tiny island in old Goa, she remained active till the afternoon she died.
Another nonagenarian gentleman whom I had the greatest respect for shared her robust lifestyle. Despite having moved to Canada in his senior years, he never let being in a new and unfamiliar land stop him from doing what he wanted. He would visit me despite the fact that it was not easy commute by public transit from his home in Brampton and involved a change of three routes. His secret was an active mind as well as a body. He even wrote to then mayor Susan Fennell to start bus service in the developing subdivision he had moved into. Most people compare me to the Energizer bunny and it is my deepest wish that I can continue to be this way. Not because I want to live longer but because I know I’d be worse than the Grinch if I wasn’t active.

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Healthy eating and discipline

Are you up-to-speed on the dirty dozen and clean 15? I’m referring to the recently revealed list of clean and dirty fruits and vegetables. The buzz is all about which ones have the most pesticides and how we should scrub them clean to protect our health. How is this related to ageism? Well our grandparents, parents and even we were probably treated to smaller amounts of the toxins when compared to our children. In fact previous generations enjoyed organic food without having to pay premium prices. Eating habits definitely impact your quality of life. Girn’s son attributes her health and longevity to her vegetarian diet. The nonagenarian I referred to was particular about his meal times, especially what and when he ate his dinner. All the maxims that the health gurus dish out to us in their books and at expensive consultations was a matter of common sense for our elders.
Looking around us, we can’t deny that we are what we eat! I guess that means more of the clean 15 for me!

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One thing’s for sure all the people who have lived to a ripe old age with their most of cognitive abilities intact and in fairly good physical health are at peace with the universe and their lives. They rarely complain, are happy and
make the most of each day. I often remind myself to follow this philosophy but with the premise that life is short. Perhaps it’s time to stop putting an expiry date on this attitude that should serve as a compass for navigating our
lives irrespective of our length of time on this earth.

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