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On The Fly: What's Wrong With Aging Anyway?

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Life doesn't work like the deli counter. We don't all go out in the same order we came in.

I am 63, four years older than my mother was when she died. Unlike my mother, I am not overweight, diabetic, nor do I share her aversion to doctors. She made her choices and I made mine -- in no small part in response to hers. In the scorecard of life, so far I'm ahead.

I prefer to fight the aging process -- which, I'd like to point out, has nothing to do with dressing like a 20-something or running for Botox every time I spot a wrinkle.

I view aging -- at least from a medical perspective -- as the losing battle we all fight against our progressive decline. If you don't fight it, you lose the battle faster.

Yet every time I write something about "anti-aging," readers remind me that there is nothing wrong with growing older. I take some exception to that thinking: There is actually a lot wrong with growing older when it hurts, when you can't do the things you still want to do or when you must face those difficult challenges without help. I did say it was a "losing battle," right? I have no illusions about my inability to live forever.

And this isn't a matter of not being comfortable with who I am. Who I am is someone who intends to die with my dancing shoes on, have many more adventures and be everyone's favorite great-grandma. But to do that requires I try and keep all my moving parts in tip-top shape.

Of course I make concessions to aging. I now wear glasses to read, other glasses to drive at night and still other glasses when I work on the office computer. I also can't eat like I used to, don't sleep all that well most nights and need to wrap my knee when I ski. I don't treat aging as a disease, but if there is an easy-to-use fix that makes me feel better while doing what I love to do, I don't have an iota of shame in using it. Yet, the anti-aging ragers would have you believe otherwise.

Trying to slow down the process in which your limitations eventually overtake you is very different than trying to recapture your youth. I don't diet for vanity; I diet to keep my arteries unclogged and improve my overall health. I don't exercise in order to wear a bikini; I exercise to keep my stress level down and my bones strong. And I devour anti-aging tips not because I want to look like I'm 30, but because I want to make sure someone hasn't come up with something I don't know about.

Anti-aging speaks to my attitude about growing older. And science says that what I think about aging will, in itself, be a factor in determining how it goes for me. I don't see myself as old, don't consider myself old and I don't call myself old -- which is sort of the whole point of the study's findings.

Those jokes about granny and her walker might actually shorten her life span, according to research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. A Yale University researcher and her colleagues found that adults with positive attitudes about aging lived more than 7.5 years longer than their peers who had negative attitudes. They said, in fact, that our self-perception of aging had a greater impact on our survival "than did our gender, socioeconomic status, loneliness or functional health." Positive attitudes had a greater effect than lowered blood pressure or cholesterol (which increase life span by an estimated four years) or exercise, weight loss, or non-smoking status (which add one to three years).

All of which proves the old saw: You are as young as you feel. And I, for one, intend on staying the course.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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