Taking my mother’sadvice: Act your age!

  • Owen Houghton of Jaffrey was awarded the Vaughan Award for Cheshire County, an award that acknowledges outstanding volunteer service from New Hampshire seniors. Owen Houghton of Jaffrey, with his wife, Norma, left, at the Monadnock Adult Care Center in Jaffrey in May.

  • Owen Houghton

Monday, May 02, 2016 7:15PM

“You can not control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”

- Yiddish proverb

The echo of my mother’s voice in many things is still with me, long after she has departed this world.

My wife even took her place to remind me to “Act my age.” I have never been sure of what that standard is or should be, but I am closer to it now.

Until recently, I considered myself an athlete and felt like I had the skills of younger days – indeed, looking from the inside out, if I don’t look in the mirror, I still think and sometimes act like I was half my age. But now I play golf from the forward tees!

April was my birthday month, and some of my friends reminded me that I was in my 80th year!

But my age is really 79 and it’s only a number, right? Any subsequent effort to view the occasion of this special day I shared with Queen Elizabeth II as a non-event quickly disappeared with a barrage of greetings on Facebook.

Starting the day with the J-R Rotary breakfast through a variety of scheduled activities to include church meetings, the free community supper, and a fundraiser for the Jaffrey Lions Club, renditions of the HB song greeted me, along with requests to reveal my age.

May is Older Americans Month

OK, so now we are in May, a month of fresh beginnings. As I take a new tack, I am reminded by The Administration for Community Living that May is also when we celebrate Older American’s Month. What does that mean for active aging?

Designed to recognize the contributions of older adults to our nation, this year’s theme is “Blaze a Trail” to raise awareness about important issues facing older adults. I cannot be my AARP-eligible “trail-blazer” friend Larry Davis, who has logged well over 7,000 Mount Monadnock summits. But, maybe I am a trailblazer if I can promote activities, inclusion, and wellness for older Americans in our communities via my computer? I can think of lots of active aging activity less strenuous for those like me with multiple chronic conditions in later life.

For example, volunteer driving for the Contoocook Valley Transportation Company is greatly needed and brings a sense of satisfaction, as do numerous opportunities for civic engagement with boards, committees, schools and churches.

There are significant benefits for socially active senior citizens. New research in the Journal Psychology and Aging confirms that the final years of life, even when challenged by health problems, can be better for socially active elders.

“Our results indicate that living a socially active life and prioritizing social goals are associated with higher late-life satisfaction and less severe declines toward the end of life,” said Denis Gerstorf, Ph.D., of Humboldt University, lead author of the research published by the American Psychological Association.

The investment in community activities is beneficial to one’s well-being, boosting feelings of competence and self-esteem through joyful service to the community. Being socially engaged is also good for the brain as well as the spirit.

My active aging used to mean lots of physical activity, but my mother’s advice has now translated to an adjustment in my sails. The new reality of aging wellness for me includes objectives to avoid stress, exercise moderately, eat less and sleep more.

Celebrate Older Americans Month as a trailblazer with the individual lifestyle that is right for your age. It’s never too late to decide to exercise, or eat more sensibly, or stop smoking, or volunteer, or patch up a relationship, or enrich your spirituality or… ain’t aging wellness fun?

Owen Houghton of Jaffrey is an educator specializing in aging wellness. He is past chair of the State Committee on Aging, a 2015 Vaughn Award recipient and a member of Monadnock at Home. Contact him at nohoughton@myfairpoint.net.