Is there actually a way to age better when it comes to health? Being a baby boomer, I would say aging and better health is an oxymoron. Or is it?
First, what is aging? For me, three signs confirmed I was aging: 1) when people started calling me “Mr. Strigberger;” 2) when I first came across doctors who were younger than me; and 3) when I started asking people, “Do you remember Gilligan’s Island?”
Regarding the Mister part, initially I would look around thinking they were addressing my dad. He was Mister. Like when all dads he wore a fedora. That’s a Mister. I was Marcel.
As for doctors, they all sported grey three-piece suits, glasses and an arrogant demeanour. One day, I visited the ER and the doctor, who resembled a high schooler and was wearing jeans, introduced himself with “Hi, I’m Dr. Jimmy. What brings you here, Marcel?”
Gilligan’s Island speaks for itself.
Moving forward, the usual health issues surfaced. For 40 years, I was impatient whenever a doctor checked my blood pressure, believing it was a complete waste of time to put that cuff on my arm and squeeze as if he was inflating a bicycle tire. The readings were always normal. Then one day in my forties, I visited my doctor after a stressful day at my law office. Lo and behold, my blood pressure numbers practically rang the bell. The higher readings continued, despite attempts at yoga and meditation. Hello, medication.
Around age 50, my vision changed and I was prescribed multifocals. I resisted at first. No way was I going that route. Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals: I was quite familiar with his image and I knew there was no way I resembled that balding spectacled guy.
As the sands of time moved and I entered my sixties, words like enlarged prostate, or BPH, entered my vernacular. I will not dwell on this subject other than to say that when I take a road trip, I would be quite happy if the service areas along Highway 401 were spaced a bit closer, like say, one every two kilometres. That would be most reasonable in my opinion.
So the question remains: Can we age better? We can’t stop the clock, but I have taken steps that make it seem better.
First, I do what I like most. I worked as a litigation lawyer for more than 40 years. Though enjoyable generally, my dream was to be a full-time humour writer. A few years ago, I realized that the world does not need another lawyer, but it could sure use more laughs. I retired from practice and the state of my overall health improved dramatically. The bouts of anxiety that used to hit me – even while on vacation – vanished. My blood pressure is down. My prostate? I stand by my earlier comments, those Highway 401 service stops need to be closer.
Second, exercise is important. But it’s personal to each of us. I love to walk. Studies have shown that regular brisk walks reduce moderate depression. I find that a peaceful walk along tree-lined streets lifts my spirits. I don’t know why anyone would want to jog. I can’t help but think of Jim Fixx, who wrote the book on jogging and dropped dead of a heart attack while on a jog. I want to arrive, but I’ll walk – thank you very much.
Third, using your sense of humour is vital. See life’s foibles through the lens of humour (not bifocals). We all have one. People of my vintage are living in a different world than the one we grew up in. There is technology to figure out – voicemail, Siri, robots. Let’s laugh whenever we get stuck trying to navigate a website or an email thread or a a new technology without the help of our children, or rather grandchildren. And speaking of the kids, we may as well smile at their peculiar vocabulary, the key words of which are: “hey,” “like” and “whatever.”
Let’s see the humour in driverless cars. I just hope that while they’re whizzing along Highway 401, they will be smart enough to pull over and let me out at one of those service stops.
To aging better. Cheers.
Marcel Strigberger is a humourist trapped inside the body of a former litigation lawyer. A frequent contributor to national newspapers, radio and TV programs, he is the author of Poutine on the Orient Express: An Irreverent Look at Travel, as well as Birth, Death and Other Trivialities – A Humourous Philosophical Look at the Human Condition.