Corrected: Don’t let outgrown theories about age keep you from good health and activity

Correction: I am grateful that a reader called my attention that the original blog had an error and it is my pleasure to correct it here. (See paragraph 9)

Former President George H.W. Bush skydiving on his 90th Birthday Google Images

Former President George H.W. Bush skydiving on his 90th Birthday
Google Images

Today, how we view aging is in some ways no different from how some once viewed the earth – flat. The widely held belief over a long time has been that as we age, we must become less active, less mentally acute and less able to live free of illness. Yet, that is beginning to change.

We are beginning to understand that we can, in fact, challenge the widely held belief that everyone must at certain ages begin to slow down, become wrinkled, and lose some senses – sight, hearing, the ability to think clearly or the desire to try new things or take on physical challenges.

Some scientists say every cell in our bodies renews itself every 7 to 10 years – just think of it, a new body every 7 or 10 years.  But there is more to aging or agelessness than acquiring a new body.  Increasingly, we know that how we think about age is more important than how many times the earth has gone around the sun. And, what we believe about the source of our life – is it material or spiritual?  – is, to me, the crucial factor.

“There are many studies demonstrating the profound influence of the mind and beliefs on ageing,” says Deepak Chopra.  “It can speed up, slow down, and even reverse itself.”  And, while this is a popular and relatively new view on aging, it is still a view that leaves someone dependent on the vagaries of human thinking rather than the consistency of an unchanging spiritual principle.

At a conference of spiritual thinkers a few weeks ago I asked the members in attendance to write down a health problem they had overcome through prayer or spiritual thinking – and to share with me what spiritual reasoning they used to overcome the problem.

One fellow, a man who is considered “of mature years”, had been swimming a mile a day several times a week for over 50 years.  He wrote that he has to routinely counter the mental suggestions that he “can’t do this anymore” and he is “too old, weak, tired, cold and bored.”  He continued in his story that he was the only one at his large gym that swims this distance.  He also participates in the most challenging exercise class meant for younger people – Total Conditioning Extreme – and has no difficulties with it.

He wrote that health is a matter of what you expect of yourself.  Are you believing you can’t do something or are you rejoicing that you can?  He has not accepted the “normal” limitations put on an aging body.

Another woman said she had recently taken the same physical fitness test she had taken seven years earlier and that she surpassed all the results from the former test.  She also said she had taken on two new sports – spinning (cycling) and boxing!  She says she loves new challenges and that she never considers her age or the possibility she can’t do something she attempts.

Both of these people shared that they spend time in prayer at the start of each day and even before a specific workout or event. What does that do for them? It reminds them of what Caleb experienced when he was requesting from Joshua (Moses’ right hand man who eventually led the Israelites into the “Promised Land”) that he be granted the rightful inheritance that Moses had promised him.  He indicated that he had wholly followed “the Lord” [was obedient to God’s words] all his life and, at the age of 85, he was as strong as when he was forty. (Joshua 14:11)

Another historical figure, Mary Baker Eddy, who, like Joshua, at 85 accomplished even more than she did at forty, wrote: “Manhood is its eternal noon undimmed by a declining sun.”  These ideas and examples tell us that if we are willing to wholly follow the Lord, we don’t have to buy into a slowing down or diminishing of any function.  We can continue learning and experiencing new things on a daily basis. Many are doing it, and health experts and researchers are beginning to explore how to understand and further it.

Former President, George H.W. Bush is a great contemporary example. In the book, 41: A Portrait of My Father, George W., his son, describes how his father, even at the age of 90, wanted to parachute jump like he had done on his 85th birthday. “He was [and continues to be] daring and courageous, always seeking new adventures and challenges,” George W wrote.  At the time of his recent 90th birthday jump, George H.W., unable to walk long distances, was in a wheelchair. He did complete the jump with his family watching at the landing site.  Nothing would stop him from “living his life to the fullest,” George W said.

In numerous settings, Former President H.W. shared the importance of the sustaining nature of his relationship with God. At a prayer breakfast in Houston, he shared this: “For me, prayer has always been important … it has sustained me at every point of my life: as a boy, when religious reading was part of our home life; as a teenager, when I memorized the Navy Hymn. Or how 48 years ago, aboard the submarine Finback after being shot down in the war, I went up topside one night on the deck, on the conning tower, and stood watch and looked out at the dark. The sky was clear. The stars were brilliant like a blizzard of fireflies in the night. There was a calm inner peace. Halfway around the world in the war zone, there was a calm inner peace: God’s therapy.”

Like Caleb, Eddy, and Former President George H.W., each of us can turn away from human views of aging and draw on God’s therapy to live a long, active, and productive life.

Kate is interested in blogging about health, health care, spirituality, science, religion, the importance of prayer in maintaining a healthy mind and body.  She is a Christian Science practitioner and the media, legislative and public contact for Christian Science in the state of Maryland. Contact Kate on Twitter: @CscomMaryland, on Facebook: Kate Johnson CS, or email:  maryland@compub.org.