9 Surprising Things We've Learned About Aging

05/09/2014 06:16 am ET | Updated May 09, 2014
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In honor of the Huffington Post's 9th birthday today, we're looking at "9 Surprising Things We've Learned About Aging."

Every day, another 8,000 Americans turn 65. And while we're all not quite there yet, here are nine lessons we've learned about aging.

1. Aging isn't the demon that young people fear it is.
It's not even the demon we thought it might be when we were younger. Remember how we never trusted anyone over 30? Truth is, we are living longer and, more importantly, living healthier. We are retiring later, staying physically active longer, and basically not aging the way our parents and grandparents did. While 60 may not be the new 40, it also isn't the old 60.

2. Lifestyle counts for a lot, but genetics even more.
You don't just wake up one day needing to cup your ear with your hand and asking "what'd ya' say?" Aging is a gradual process and it happens to everyone, just at a different rate. Much of that is predetermined by your genes. Which isn't to say that smoking and other lifestyle choices won't factor in big time. But you do what you can -- like not smoking and making other smart lifestyle choices -- and understand that much of how you age is outside your control. Biology is not destiny.

3. You are as old as you feel.
When you are young, this sounds like a cliche. But then as you get older, you get it. You see people much older than you who stay vital, keep active and live life to its fullest. And you see others who seem to just shut down at the first sign of needing reading glasses. It really is the attitude we bring to the table. So bring a good one. In a study of 660 people, those with more positive perceptions of their own aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer.

4. Good health is the best currency you can have as you face the future.
Eating right, exercising, learning how to manage your stress are the things that matter most. And money can't buy them for you. We'd throw in having an attitude of gratitude in here too.

5. Plastic surgery can produce some scary results.
The world shook its collective head when Kim Novak and Goldie Hawn appeared at the Academy Awards sporting faces that we almost couldn't recognize. Novak later said the reaction stunned and hurt her and the world -- again collectively -- felt bad. But why should our beautiful women feel that they become less beautiful as they age? Acceptance is key to aging gracefully. And maybe what needs to change is our definition of beauty, eh?

6. Alzheimer's is scarier still.
Alzheimer's disease robs its sufferers not just of their memories but often their ability to swallow. The degenerative brain disease was blamed for 83,000 U.S. deaths in 2010, but its true toll may be as much as six times that, said Bryan James, an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago. Death certificates tend to underreport deaths from Alzheimer's and dementia, James told CNN. "The more immediate causes of death, such as pneumonia or heart attack, are usually listed, and the underlying causes of death are usually left off."

7. You are what you eat.
Strawberries are good for your skin, gluten may not be your friend, and kale -- despite its presence as a salad bar decoration for much of our formative years -- is now something we should be eating a lot of. In other words: Eat this, but don't eat this. And say goodbye to salt forever.

8. Retirement looks different for everybody the closer they get to it.
While some adopt a "what me worry?" attitude, many of us are concerned that the recession left a permanent mark on our retirements. For sure, it won't be the retirement that our parents had. More of us are expecting to work longer than we originally thought. Besides, the more we think about it: What do you actually do every day when you are retired anyway?

9. Aging helps you prioritize.
Ask anyone and they'll tell you that the older they get, the less time they waste on fools. They weed through their relationships and eliminate the takers, the phonies, the people who don't make them feel good. Dishonesty dies along the aging highway. It's almost a shame that we don't come to these realizations in our 20s; it would sure have shaved away some heartache.

Earlier on HuffPost50:

11 Easy Ways To Shorten Your Life
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