This is an introduction to my upcoming series of “How’ to Make Healthy Living a Lifestyle. Each post will include Valuable Tips to Help You Achieve Your Healthy Lifestyle Goals. There will also be free online video/tele-seminars offered. Stay tuned…
Every May is Older Americans Month. The 2017 theme is Aging Out Loud! It was first started in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy met with members of the National Senior Citizens Council. It was known then as Senior Citizens month, with the primary purpose of acknowledging the contributions to our country by men and women age 65 and older.
As everything evolves to keep up with societal changes, so too has Older Americans Month (OAM). This year the theme of ‘Age Out Loud’ was chosen to give aging a new voice, one that highlights the progress and new developments of our aging population. We are the generation who continues to set trends as we ‘disrupt aging’ as described by AARP CEO JoAnn Jenkins in her book of the same name.
I was just 14 years old when Older Americans Month was established. At that time, I had not heard of it, and quite frankly, would not have been interested if I had. I was in high school and being of the baby boomer generation, I was busy living out loud back then. Well, here it is 54 years later, and as a forever embedded member of the baby boomer generation, I am now, really Living Out Loud! I, along with many others are taking charge of our lives, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for ourselves and others. There is no doubt that what it means to age has changed through the years, and OAM 2017 is a perfect opportunity erase the old stereotypes, and recognize and celebrate what getting older looks like today.
The baby boomer generation is known for changing the direction of America as we set trends and new directions throughout the years. Now, as a 68-year-old, I, along with many of my cohorts are still setting trends. We are changing the conversation of older Americans by confronting the old stereotypes and living our best life now! We are maintaining our health, independence, and experiencing new life adventures! We have a reasonably good quality of life, and are embracing the joys of aging!’
Did you know that by the year 2050 for the first time ever, the world population will have more people over the age of 65, than children age 5 and younger? According to the Harvard School of Public Health, boomers are expected to live longer than any other generation. Acknowledging that trend, it only stands to reason that as our life expectancy is extended, we want to maintain a good quality of life, that includes being healthy, happy and spiritually grounded!
My inspiration to help me on the path to disrupt the platitudinal aging process comes from some older Americans I know personally, who are older than me. I want to introduce you to just a few of them:
1) Ernestine Shepherd, the Guinness Book of World Records oldest female body builder. Ernestine didn’t start her health routine until she was 56 years old, which resulted in her becoming a body builder. Ernestine is now 80 years old and continues to body build and lead a healthy lifestyle;
2) Alpha Bennett, a 78-year-old great-grandmother was inspired after completing her first triathlon at age 49 to take on new ventures that included running and cycling. She has participated in mud challenges, and spelunking. Recently she was a chaperone to a bicycle ride from Durham, N.C. to St. Augustine, Florida for about 20 young people from the ages of 8 to 17. It took them almost 2-weeks and their overnight accommodations were tents! Alpha continues to travel the world to participate in bicycle rides which includes places like Italy, Spain, and Europe;
3) Fitness Guru, Eddie Nelson, now 77 years-old, has participated in various Senior Olympic Games where he competed in the 100 Meter Dash, Discus, Javelin, Hammer Throw, Triple Jump and Weight Throw. He has a myriad of gold medals he has earned in the various competitions. Eddie has been featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not twice, FLEX magazine, on billboards and on TV. He is also the author of Old School Workout. However, what I want to emphasize here is that at age 74 Eddie was diagnosed with esophagus cancer. No doubt, he was devastated and didn’t understand because he was living a healthy lifestyle. Well, because of his lifestyle, according to his doctor, Eddie was able to defeat the cancer and, in less than 2-years, he is back to his physical fitness regime as though the cancer never existed;
4) Then there is 84-year-old Don who walks about 2-miles every day. What is so amazing about Don is that he has had major back surgery and refused to give up on life! How about you? Have you given up, or are you living out loud?
I share these stories to inspire you, man or woman, that growing old gracefully is more than a cliché, it is a reality that we can all experience, if we so choose, as those men and women are doing, I have shared with you. Remember, our future levels of health, wellness and wellbeing depends on the choices we make today. It is never too late to make better choices!
Now, I will go full circle and share some highlights of my personal story with you. I will start by mentioning some of the recognitions I have received that includes a ‘Profiles in Positive Aging’ award from LeadingAge Georgia. Can you even imagine the elation I felt upon receiving this award for just living my life … doing what I do! I love the things I do and knowing that I am providing indelible experiences to others and helping them lead their best life truly warms my heart. I have been featured on CNN’s AccentHealth network, selected by the Huffington Post / The TODAY Show as one of 50 Over 50 who Reinvented Themselves, and on the cover of a Special Edition of the GirlFriends magazine for the White House Conference on Aging, among other recognitions. I am highly seasoned and savoring the spices of life as I celebrate the joys of aging. I love this life!
One of the most significant days of my life was the last day of my 49th year. I had a doctor’s appointment. What made this appointment consequential, unlike any previous doctor appointments, I was told that I was pre-hypertensive. I couldn’t believe it! I had owned several health food stores and thought I was in great health. This proved to be a pivotal day in my life. Before I even left the doctor’s office, I decided I did not want to take medications and that I would make better choices to improve my health naturally so I could alleviate my potential for hypertension.
During that ensuing year, when I was 50 years old, I was introduced to the Senior Olympic Games. I joined a senior women’s basketball team. I was never an athletic person. This was all new to me. I knew I wanted to become more physically active. This, I thought was a perfect opportunity. I was having fun, meeting/making new friends, learning something new, being more physically active, and according to the coach, I would have the opportunity to travel around the country! I went on to earn, along with my team members, gold and silver medals as we competed in local competitions, state tournaments and the World Senior Games and National Senior Olympics. As I reflect, I have continued to be active for more than 18 years now and will be participating in the National Senior Games this June in Birmingham, Alabama. However, I have expanded by athleticism to include cycling and race walking.
As a result of my newfound adventurous spirit, at age 56, I went on my first hike, trekking Blood Mountain, a connector trail to the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, in North Georgia. Wow … I discovered a passion I did not know was hidden inside of me. A passion for the outdoors! This is significant keeping in mind that I was raised as an urban city girl, who never really enjoyed parks or being outdoors. That hike marked a momentous point in my life. By age 60 I had organized my own hiking group after becoming a Certified Outings Leader through the Sierra Club. Now, for more than 8 years I continue to lead monthly group hikes to share the wonderment of Mother Nature and the great outdoors with others.
To celebrate my 65th birthday, I led a group of friends hiking the Bright Angel trail at the Grand Canyon. Hiking really brought out my adventurous spirit so much so that I added other outdoor group activities that include zip lining, white water rafting, kayaking, camping, tree climbing, spelunking, backpacking and others. I am having so much fun, I could say, I am living my second childhood … what a blast!
Often, I am asked if I am retired, my response is simply, “I am not retired, I am rejuvenated!” With that said, I encourage you to live your dreams … live your best life now … Age Out Loud and celebrate the joys of aging every month, and on into the future!
Carolyn is a Healthy Lifestyle Coach & Outdoor Adventure Leader, a professional speaker, trainer and writer. She is the recipient of a LeadingAge Georgia – Profiles in Positive Aging Award, representing AARP. She was selected as a National Association of Professional Women VIP of the year (2016-2017); In January 2017 she was featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) newspaper, has been interviewed on several radio programs and on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) for airing during Older Americans Month in May 2017. She is the founder of Hartfield’s Hikers, Older People with Active Lifestyles (OPALs) and Walk Outdoors for Wellness! (WOW!). For more information about Carolyn, visit her website at http://www.CarolynHartfield.com or send her an email at CH@CarolynHartfield.com