Going Out With A ROAR!
By Stephen Doherty
“It is health that is real wealth
and not pieces of gold and silver!” –Mahatma Gandhi
Throughout time, life has been a cruel paradox of pursuing financial security when we’re young and healthy, only to reach our golden years often physically unable to enjoy the fruits of our labors. While time represents a bonanza in terms of compounding the size of our investments–the opposite is true when it comes to our physical well being. After the age of thirty–our muscle mass decreases at 3%-8% per year and accelerates, even more, when we hit sixty. Most disabilities and age-related “fragility” are a direct cause of simple physics. Absent muscle mass, our skeletal structure absorbs what our muscles used to–a recipe for disaster and a retirement mired in “what-ifs” and lost opportunities.
Additionally, most of the diseases and ailments that eventually kill the vast majority of us–are due to the compounding effects of a lifetime of bad habits. Heart disease and cancer will take out the majority of us–and the cause for most of this can be found in our cabinets and refrigerators. That is the cruelest of ironies as we approach retirement-our body’s “warranties” expire almost the moment we arrive home from our retirement parties! The degree of incrementalism that contributes to our demise is actually astonishing. Our bodies are capable of almost miraculous resiliency and toughness in the face of such prolonged efforts to poison and destroy it. But predictably-and a bit cruelly, too many of us enter our golden years in a state of decline.
“What surprises me most is “MAN” because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then, he is forced to sacrifice his money to recuperate his health!” –The Dali Lama
The good news is that a meaningful offset to that destructive incrementalism of bad habits can be found in the equally profound axiom of the good-old “80-20 rule.” While it usually takes decades to run our bodies down–the science of nutrition and exercise has proven that minimal changes can dramatically increase the state of our health and by extension- the quality of our remaining days.
The second a life-long cigarette smoker quits–the lungs begin to heal. 40-years of lost muscle mass can be recovered very quickly through a minimally consistent regime of resistance training. Give up most of the processed crap and steer 20% of your diet to plant-based, and you’ll immediately reap the rewards. And finally, amidst all the diet and exercise magazines and weight loss advice–the simplest and easiest remedy is a slight cutback in calories accompanied by daily walks of 3-5 miles. (The cavemen had it right)
Despite civilization’s best efforts–there is no remedy for aging. Frankly, the older I get-I’m ever-more grateful for where I am and smile with the realization that it’s probably good we were only young once! That said, our generation and the generations to come will eschew the rocking chair and canes in favor of maintaining our bodies in a way that will allow us to remain vibrant and energetic and engaged with life and our loved ones!
Yes, it requires effort and commitment and perhaps some changes in long-held habits. So WHAT? If you’ve made it this far–do the necessary things to attack your golden years with activities once available only to the young and a mind that remains sharp and aware of the beauty of the world around it. Retirement isn’t an opportunity to rest–it’s a chance to double down our energies in new directions and challenge ourselves to go out in a flame of glory! Mark Spitz once said, while preparing for another Olympics in his 50s, “I know I can never be as great as I once was–but just one more time..I’d like to be as great as I ever was!”
In the grand schemes of things, our mere existence is the outcome of incalculable odds. We should not treat meekly the remaining years but relish the childlike zeal of continuing to push ourselves up to and beyond our own self-imposed limits. You’re given one ticket for one ride. Make the ending as spectacular as the beginning!
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” –Hunter Thompson