Getting Old is…..
Weird, Disconcerting, Unfamiliar, Surreal, Unsettling…
Each year, life can offer us new opportunities and challenges. But with each decade, we mark the passage of time with our bodies and, more importantly, our mindset.
Who isn’t startled when they look in the mirror somehow expecting to see their twenty year old self looking back at them? When we’re younger, we get caught up in the business of our lives, jobs, and kids. And then, all of a sudden it seems, you realize you’ve hit the halfway mark while you weren’t paying attention. When did that happen? And what happened? Things don’t look, feel, or move like they used to. That’s the physical perspective.
From a neurological perspective, because your brain and nervous system are constantly working to keep you safe, they’re making your world smaller to reduce the threat to your survival: Your movements get smaller and safe; your visual skills down regulate; and even your emotional capacity for change lessens. Believe it or not, from a survival perspective, this is for your own good. It might seem counterintuitive that our brains think we are safer if our world “gets smaller,” but it makes sense. When you move less, there is a better chance that you’ll be alive tomorrow. You’ve saved calories. You’re safe. And while it makes sense for your immediate survival, it doesn’t when you take a longer view and want a healthy future where you can move well and avoid injury.
Moving well means living well. Better movement means better brain health. You have to move in order to make neural pathways in your brain and body. Immobility from both a physical and neurological perspective is a slow and steady way to make your world smaller. Your brain and body crave movement, novelty, and safety, all at the same time.
Learning to move well takes time, intention, and determination. It doesn’t come easily, especially if you’ve had injuries that have changed your movement patterns or put you into pain. This is where the benefit of aging comes into play. If we can’t figure out that good things are worth working for when we get older, when the heck are you going to figure it out?
With age comes the wisdom and experience of knowing that things take time, that the good stuff is worth working for, and that we don’t take joy for granted. Smelling the roses, moving and playing, are all part of enjoying life that is not just reserved for the young. Do yourself a favor and see age as the gift it is rather than the curse it isn’t. If we choose to, we can use our experiences and current situation as a data point to determine how to move forward.
People think that because I do this for a living, moving comes easy. Well, it depends. When it’s a new skill, I have to work at it, just like everyone else. I can be frustrated when my body doesn’t do what I want or think it should do. But as I expand upon my library of movement of skills, everytime I learn something new, it’s a bit easier, because my brain doesn’t register this new movement as a threat. In most areas, I actually move better than I did when I was in my teens and twenties, simply because I’m practicing good movement skills, good visual skills and vestibular/balance drills.
It’s never too late to practice something new. And what a waste of time and energy to feel ashamed or embarrassed over what we can’t do. Who needs it?! Is that really what you want to practice? Being ashamed? Who cares! That is where the gift of age comes in. Enjoy life, be a dork! Playfulness and humility are things to be proud of as we age. Find something you love but are challenged by. Be cautious, but with emotional abandon. Move, play, have fun. Moving well doesn’t end with youth.