Living the good, long life

Norwalk Citizen News
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 
Rita Papazian


In a recent interview with USA Today, discussing her new book, "Living the Good Long Life," Martha Stewart said, "When you're through changing, you're through."

In other words, it's change that keeps us energized while living a long life. At age 71, Stewart cites her mother who lived to 93 as a role model.

Stewart, along with Pulitzer-Prize winner Anna Quindlen, former New York Times columnist and author, have been recently talking publicly about the challenge of maintaining physical, mental and social fitness as one ages. Stewart, who has been divorced for over three decades, is even exploring the possibility of meeting someone through Match.com. She is chronicling her efforts publicly through current appearances on the Today Show. Her public efforts are quite admirable. It takes guts at her age, not only to go on Match.com but to do it publicly.

This week, she reported she put up her profile on the dating site and has received 20,000 responses, which were narrowed down to 1,000 and then to five, of which she will respond to two. According to Match.com, Stewart's quest to meet someone, is spurring other older women to take up the challenge. Count me out.

A few years ago, my daughter suggested that I go on Match.com. I said that I would never do that. Then, I got curious. I went to the website and started looking around. I almost thought to try it and then I decided that it was definitely not for me. I have been spoiled by having the opportunity to meet a lot of people through my work. While that has changed, I do find my life is full in other ways, including having six grandchildren.

Since life expectancy is slightly over 80, as compared to 68 in 1952. I have been very interested to learn what these two women have to say about aging for I, too, am facing the challenge of maintaining good health in my later years.

Last week, in an author talk at Sacred Heart University, as part of WSHU's "Join the Conversation" series, Quindlen emphasized the importance of relationships as one ages. She especially noted the importance of "girl friends" for women. Similarly, Stewart, in her "10 Golden Rules" for growing old cites "connecting with others."

The other golden rules include: eat well; maintain a healthy weight; stay physically active; get quality sleep; wear sunscreen; collaborate with a good primary care doctor regularly; find your passion; stop complaining -- change what you can, and accept what you cannot; and stay curious.

This I can do and do. I don't need Match.com.

Of course, I admit, I do go overboard with her suggestions to "change what you can, and accept what you can't and to stay curious." My life reflects lots of change, and maybe this is not necessarily a good thing. I frequently change where I live and the style of housing I choose. In the past 30 years, I have lived in three different single-family houses, one condo, a loft, an apartment in a barn, and a mobile home. What has been constant is my proximity to the water. I must have Long Island Sound nearby.

Curiosity is a constant in my life. That has been the fuel for my career in journalism and my food for embracing life as it is.

I admit that there have been many times that I have found myself taking up the "woe is me" mantle. That got me nowhere, especially with my adult children. They just don't want to hear it. They are constantly looking for their own coping mechanisms to get them through balancing full-time work with parenting, along with a mix of Little League, soccer and gymnastics while dealing with the responsibilities of aging parents.

That brings us full circle to the longevity factor here and the quality of life. While Stewart, Quindlen and many others, including myself, are fortunate to have good health -- as Jane Fonda would say, living out our third chapter -- some of our relatives and friends are not so lucky. Last November my sister-in-law died following a couple of years of a series of ailments, including osteoporosis. Another family member is now in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. One of my healthy friends just lost a friend to a stroke, another is dealing with brain cancer and another friend's husband has dementia.

This past Monday, the Boston Globe published a cover story with the heading, "Caution: Those Who Care For Aging Family Members Are Taking On More Medical Responsibilities." The article focused on the trend today of baby boomers having to care for aging parents and "shouldering more complex nursing tasks once performed by professionals in hospitals and nursing homes." The reason is "reduced funding for home-based services to help ease the burden and mounting economic pressures to shorten hospital stays." More than one-half of these family member caregivers are female with a median age of 56, married and working.

This trend underscores the importance in paying attention to those "golden rules" during the aging process. While some illnesses and chronic mental and physical health issues may not be avoidable, one can at least keep up the good fight for our own life and the lives of others depending upon us.

 

 

Copyright 2013 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.