“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old,” George Burns once quipped. Increasingly, health experts are discovering what Burns knew – our attitude toward the aging process makes all the difference in the world.
As one considers the five aspects of health: mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual – we don’t want to neglect the spiritual aspect, especially in how we view age. “Seventy-five percent of the battle to longevity is spiritual and psychological wellness,” Gina Belmont, health and wellness director at the Kroehler Family YMCA in Naperville told me.
Belmont and I recently talked about the Y’s participation in the nationwide “Silver Sneaker’s” program – an effort to offer exercise and social programs to seniors. Fitness instructor Kim Monti explained that the program is free to all seniors who have Medicare and supplemental health insurance.
“Individuals have often enrolled because of a doctor’s referral. Insurance companies have seen their profit margins enlarge through these program since individuals often get off their prescription medications after participating in the Silver Sneakers program,” Monti stated.
It is not just the physical exercise that this program offers that brings release from limitation – both Monti and Belmont spoke also of the mental empowerment it offers. It helps seniors think of themselves as not growing old, even though they may be advancing in years. This builds confidence, and helps them feel mentally younger, and that results in feeling physically younger also.
“There was a woman who came to us,” Monti said. “She had been diagnosed with osteopenia, high blood pressure, and was borderline diabetic. She had been prescribed many medications, and just did not want to be on all of those different pills. Two years after coming here every day, she has been taken off all her medications. Her bone density has risen. She now attends regular classes with much younger people.”
So how does one enhance the spiritual aspect of health? A mental shift away from just accepting the limitations, fears and frustration associated with number of years is important. Health researcher Mary Baker Eddy suggested that we “shape of views of existence into loveliness, freshness and continuity, rather than into age and blight.”
So, we can choose to reflect on goodness – vitality, flexibility, and endurance – rather than deterioration, illness and dependency. And, this produces significant health benefits.
“There is definitely a shift going on in public and medical thought today – there are many ways to wellness,” Belmont said. “Even though the shift is not complete yet, there is a definite sense that here is an alternative in the treatment of age-related illnesses. Preventive care is an important part of what we are about at Silver Sneakers. There is too much focus on medicine for seniors. Instead, we offer preventive care so you don’t need that treatment.”
Monti told me about one of her clients: a man who had suffered several strokes. He joined the Silver Sneakers program, participated in it regularly, and has not had a single health issue in the eight years since.
So, how do you view yourself? Instead of focusing on age or number of years you have lived, consider molding and exercising your spiritual qualities. You will feel a newness of life, connected with the divine.
Picture copyright Glow Images
Models used for illustrative purposes only
Copyright Christian Science Committee on Publication for Illinois