Senior Perspective: My secret? Use it or lose it

By Marge Woodfin, Pilot staff writer March 02, 2011 04:00 am

On days when I take more than just a passing glance at the mirror, I feel as though I’m looking at the “Picture of Dorian Gray.” Not, I hope, as a result of evil, but I must admit that time and gravity have taken a terrible toll on the reflection that greets me.

I realized just how fleeting my glances into the mirror are these days when a friend remarked about a drooping eyelid, asking if it bothered my eyesight at all.

I wasn’t even aware that I had a drooping eyelid. Big deal. It doesn’t affect my eyesight at all. At least I don’t think it does.

I don’t feel old, and I can’t believe how old I am. I know I passed my 80th birthday in 2004 because there was a quarter-page announcement in our favorite newspaper.

Oh, I know how old I am chronologically, but physically, emotionally and intellectually, I’m sure that I’m actually much younger. And, like the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” I ain’t down yet.

I still ascribe to the “use it or lose it” philosophy, and I can still keep up with some much younger folks – and I’m not the only one in our charming little town who believes that.

An extremely large segment of the population is made up of retirees who contribute to the welfare of the community, serving on city and county committees, reading with children in the schools, getting out the vote, helping law enforcement as members of Volunteers In Police, keeping activities going at the Chetco Activity Center, making the surroundings more beautiful as members of the Garden Club, serving the youth as members of CASA, and much, much more.

Those who so willingly and graciously serve the community are also serving themselves – keeping young by staying active.

Ergo, “use it or lose it.”

I remember hearing gerontologist Ken Dychwald say something at a National Speakers Association meeting many years ago that made a lasting impression on me. He said one of the greatest causes of illness in our society today is “hardening of the attitudes.”

I’m sure you’ve noticed that rigid things tend to break under pressure while things that are flexible can bounce back. I tend to think that includes people.

Especially as we get older and more set in our ways, we should all take inventory of our prejudices, stored resentments, old hurts, and present attitudes, and get rid of the ones that keep us from being flexible in our associations.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean being flexible in our attitudes toward murder, mayhem, thievery, an fraud, but I do mean trying to see another person’s point of view on anything that doesn’t threaten your morality.

It isn’t easy to remain calm in the midst of something that seems unfair, but we do need to remember that “a soft answer turns away wrath.”

That’s one I personally need to work on. I must admit I tend to get a bit excited occasionally and can generate more heat than light. But, it’s never too late to learn, and continuing to learn can help keep us young. E. Stanley Jones wrote, “We don’t grow old. We get old when we stop growing.”

He suggests that we may stop growing physically (those of us who fight corpulence may wish we would stop growing, but that’s a whole other subject) but we can continually grow mentally and spiritually.

A French philosopher is quoted as saying, “To exist is to change. To change is to mature. To mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” To which, Jones responds, “Not only creating oneself, but others, endlessly. We are continuously creative.”

What a wonderful thought.

So get up off your okole and go out and create!