Superman, Superwoman, Superager Superhero movies: they dominate theater marquees and crush it at the box office. Have you ever pondered the source of their mojo? I imagine it's because the largest movie-going demographic is aged 25 to 39, a period of life when people are stretching their capabilities for new accomplishments: graduate degrees, career success, raising children. Superhero movies are an efficient way to vicariously experience an expansion of power. Walking out of a great superhero movie, you're inspired to be more than you are because the storyline includes a universal character arc. First comes the challenge, followed by the urge to hide. But if you confront your fear bravely and boldly, you discover new strength and power. It's role modeling on steroids, stretched onto a fifty-foot screen. But I'm middle-aged. I've completed my education, climbed the career ladder and successfully emptied the nest. Superhero movies don't thrill me because I no longer need superpowers. Or do I? Is optimum aging a superpower?
In the U.S. News & World Report book, How to Live to 100, expert after expert extoll the benefits of strenuous mental and physical exercise into and throughout old age. These are not newfound benefits. But what is new is the accumulating evidence of how dramatically these activities can promote healthy aging, help ward off physical and cognitive decline and illness, and add years to our lives. The New York Times article, "How to Become a 'Superager,'" cites research on superagers who are not only mentally young for their age, but some of their brain regions appear in MRI scans to be equivalent to that of a 25-year-old. The article states that "puzzles like Sudoku are not enough" and recommends doing something mentally or physically hard--so hard that it hurts--to keep your brain sharp. Who comes to mind when you think of a superager? I think of Roxy, who signed up for a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon at the age of 74. The trip leader was concerned that the excursion might be too wild for her (based solely on her age) but she completed it without incident and immediately embarked on an expedition to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. I also think of Backroads guest Mike, who's 100 years old and still biking!
Here are 3 Tips to Become a Superaging Superpower: 1. FIGHT THE INERTIA FACTOR One of the biggest challenges to superaging is overcoming inertia, and the older you are, the bigger the inertia factor that has accumulated around you. It's far easier to continue doing what you've always done, or not doing what you're never done, than to make a life-altering change or even a minor tweak. Every voice in your head will tell you it's too late, it's too hard, I could get hurt, I could die, I'm too old. Politely tell that voice to shut up, then sign up for stand-up paddleboarding, learn Italian or trek to Macchu Pichu. Do something uncomfortable or unpredictable at least once a month. 2. PUT A PLAN IN PLACE BY AGE 50
There are many ways to do this. Choose one that works for you and get started. Here are three of my superager programs:
- Bucket lists have captured the attention of baby boomers (#babyboomerbucketlist) because of the urgency we feel upon realizing there are things we must see, must do, before we leave the planet.
- I have a "Lifetime Goals" document I review daily. One of my main categories is "fitness," with an intention to structure my lifestyle to maintain mental and physical vigor.
- I plan to participate in at least one Backroads trip a year to not only expand my life physically and mentally, but to develop relationships with like-minded people who send messages like, "Where are we going next year?"
3. DEVELOP A LEGACY LENS: Many baby boomers facing retirement or recently retired may be dealing with feelings of loss or uselessness and are considering what their legacy will be. What can be more valuable than sharing the perspectives and life experience we've gained with those who will follow after us? I've prioritized traveling with my granddaughter so I can build a legacy around shared experiences and memories with her. I hope to pass along to her my generation's values, to show her first-hand all the beautiful connections and lessons that are gained when traveling.