I’m Not Old

Man, was I offended!

It has always offended me when people say I’m a senior or imply I’m old.

To hear two doctors who research longevity and anti-aging say that a person who’s 65 is not healthy, that they are functionally impaired, startled me and raised that annoyed reaction. It also opened my mind to new possibilities.

I’ve slowly grown into the woman I am so the impairments have slowly snuck up on me. I’m the proverbial frog in the pot of water that’s slowly being brought to a boil; it adjusts until it’s too late to act.

And what I can’t see I can’t gauge or evaluate. I get my blood work done at least annually. I take all kinds of supplements to improve my health, longevity, and performance. I can walk hundreds of miles across northern Spain right along with young adults and kids, sometimes outpacing them. I exercise to keep myself in some semblance of good physical health. But, until I get my biological age tested I won’t really know how old my physiology is.

The Calendar is Not Enough

Biological age is part of what “ages” us. There are things we can do to improve that. The advice given to get better sleep, better health, better whatever is the same advice given for getting better biological age: eat whole foods, hydrate, move frequently through the day, and improve our sleep habits. The element overlooked in the aging conversation is mindset.

Ageism is part of what I’m rebelling against with being referred to as “old”. Age is in the eye — heart? soul? — of the beholder. You can’t tell by looking at someone’s birth certificate, passport, or driver’s license what that age is. You can’t tell just by looking at them what they see their age as.

We are as old as we act.

We are as old as we feel.

We are also as old as we look.

We are as old as our biological systems. And that can be independently measured.

I’m young at heart and act and feel like a kid. (Ask me about my 2nd-grade-level jokes some time.) I don’t look my age, or so I’m told. When I tested my biological age I learned it is lower than my chronological age, but not by as much as I wanted or expected it to be — or want it to be in the future. I want my biological systems to be youthful, work well, and keep me strong — like the teenager I feel like.

So, I’m taking action. I’m measuring my heart rate and heart rate variability, respiratory rate, sleeping body temperature, blood glucose, movement, and sleep metrics of how long I sleep and how much of that is deep, REM, and light/wakeful. I’m also tracking the foods that will support good health based on my DNA and blood work. I’m sure there’s more to measure, but that’s enough for me for now. I eased into this amount of measuring. Taking it step at a time made it easier and more likely something I’ll stick with.

But Why?

You may wonder why I’m doing this. Because I want to be better today than I was yesterday. My mindset alone isn’t enough to ensure that. Measuring my actual biological levels and progress (or regression) are the best way for me to ensure I’m getting better.

Why do I want to be better? So that I don’t slip into decline, like the frog in the boiling water, as I grow older. Aging is not optional. How I age is optional. I want to be as vibrant at 100 and 150 as I was at 18 and 27. Feeling that my performance doesn’t slip is important to me. When my time is up, I want to slide into home plate screaming with joy. I want a long, vibrant life. There’s too much to do; too many people to know, things to do, places to visit, and contributions to make to die early.

The two doctors referenced above who research longevity and anti-aging would benefit by updating their language. Some people who are 65 may be unhealthy, but not all of them are, and in fact more and more of them are downright youthful. You probably know someone like that.. Language matters. And I’ll bet, especially if they do their work well, fewer and fewer 65-year-olds will be unhealthy every year.

I may be an elder. I will enjoy “senior discounts” when offered, and I’ll take them as celebrations for turning the calendar pages lots of times, or having successfully circled the sun many times. But I’m not old. And I think that my biological measurement will “age” backward for awhile.

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