Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Adding Life to Our Years"

My experience in the Life@Elon adult enrichment courses this semester has been outstanding. The course variety and the quality of instructor have exceeded all expectations. The following are my notes from an excellent course entitled "Adding Life to Our Years."

"The hallmark of aging is the reduced ability to respond adaptively to environmental change. Adaptation is the key. Both the positive and the negative are important, and it is the pull/tension between the two that causes growth, if properly managed (as in Erickson's Psychological Stages). It is the adapting and the responding that matters. Neither wisdom nor sound health come automatically with age. We stay the same (young and healthy) by being in a constant state of flux. It is the adapting and the interplay that both strengthens us physically and that makes us wiser.

The concept of Homeostasis, the state of balance in the body and mind, is important. This balance is maintained by a series of negative feedback mechanisms (like challenges), such as when the thermostat in the home rises when the temperature in the house gets cool in order to regain the proper temperature........ in order to maintain proper balance. We must change......challenge that we are required to adapt in that effort to maintain and stay the same.

We must constantly challenge ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually, such as in "circuit training", that is, not engaging in the same activity repeatedly. We must incorporate variety and change into everyday activities. Value the struggle and the not value ease and comfort.

"I am not my body", is a critical concept. We are, in essence, a soul and a spirit......soul, in this context, meaning mind, will, and emotions. There is more to life than functioning well. Go deep, be deep, be reflective.

Social connections are closely related to longevity. Have many of them. It's not the events of life that stress us, it's what we think of the events, what we tell ourselves about the events, which stresses us. Be in the moment. Do not multi-task, when avoidable. Don't act like, look like, sound like, or be like any of the "senior" stereotypes (to the extent possible). Don't use the term "senior moment".

"Life consists of what a person is thinking about all day." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson. That is the most important concept. LOVE.....honor others, forgive, express gratitude and hope, be passionate, and be attentive to the present and to the moment. Attention is sacred. Stay engaged in life and in the community. Continue "to become." Be a part of something larger. Aging can be a great, transformative process.

To Add Life to Our Years: 1) Be present, 2) Feed the body, soul, and spirit, 3) Challenge the body, soul, and spirit, and 3) Do what you were made to do."

Instructor - Charity Johannson, PT, PhD, GCS - Associate Professor, Elon University
Student, Note Taker - Bob Godfrey, M.Ed., (Elon College, 1971 - UNC-G, 1972)

(The two guys pictured above are at a baseball game....... attempting to "add life to our years"....... friend, and Elon graduate, Jack McKeon, 81-year old manager of the 2011 Florida Marlins, as well as manager of the 2003 World Champion Marlins, and yours truly).