Do the Right Thing

Spirit, science, and health

If 50 is the new 30 then I'm the tooth fairy!

We can't control of age but we can control what we do with it

I turned 50 this month. Yikes!  While we have likely all heard phrases such as "50 is the new 30" and variations on that theme, I'm not buying it. Sounds like denial to me. While I'm a pretty healthy 50-year-old in the sense that I have no serious illnesses (at least that I know of), I am of normal weight, I run 30 minutes each day and have done so since the 1970's, I eat a pretty healthy and generally low fat diet (with the exception of a passion for quality chocolate and fine wine!), and I have many family members who have lived into their 90's, I don't for a minute believe that 50 is the new 30 or even the new 40. Plus, I am well aware of the epidemiological research on the significant increase in risk of many forms of cancer and other serious illnesses once you hit 50. While I try to do the right thing for my body, mind, and soul, I (like most folks my age) can't help but notice those subtle (and not so subtle signs) of aging. The brain and body just don't seem to work the way they used to a few decades and even a few years ago.

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Research clearly indicates that our attitude matters for our physical and emotional health and well being. But denial can be destructive if we don't attend to the natural limitations of our bodies and mind as we age.


So, in my view, 50 is not the new 30 but is the same 50 that it has always been! However, there are lots of things that we can hopefully do to make our 50 as good as possible. Being attentive to doing all that we can do in order to do the right thing for our body, mind, and soul can increase the odds that our 50 is as good as anyone's but denial or minimization of the aging process is likely to be unproductive, unhealthy, sometimes dangerous, and might lead us to some very poor decisions. We also must accept that we can control some things (perhaps like diet, exercise, and health damaging behaviors) but not many other things (such as exposure to toxins in our air, food, and water). Somehow, we must be at peace with that and be grateful for whatever quality years we get. After all, not everyone gets to reach 50 or beyond.

So, 50 isn't the new 30 in my book. 50 is 50 but there are lots of things that we can do for our body, mind, and spirit as we age to increase the odds that our aging process isn't so bad and perhaps is even pretty darn good. Reasonable expectations, avoiding denial, and doing what we can for ourselves and others likely will help a lot.   

 

 

Thomas Plante, PhD, ABPP, is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, SJ University Professor at Santa Clara University and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University.

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