The Cassia Life

‘New’ Concept for Seniors: Active Aging

“Retirement? I hate it! I’d rather be working.”

Speaking was Dr. Erskine Caperton, a St. Paul, Minnesota, MD who, five months ago, closed his full-time rheumotology practice and retired. The pressure was on from officials wielding new coronavirus regs including office remodeling.

Dr. Caperton and his office manager/wife Eva both are 80. As he and I talked by telephone, little did we realize that Active Aging Week, October 5-11, had just ended. Later, checking it out, I learned that the week is observed primarily in Europe.

Dr. Caperton is a strong believer in keeping gainfully occupied both physically and mentally throughout life. He started jogging regularly as a young army doctor in Texas when almost no other medical person in his unit was doing so. Now he’s on the treadmill or stationary bike five days a week. Until recently he owned his own small airplane and with Eva aboard did trips to places and events around the country.

Active aging is defined as a life style over time involving worthwhile activity of the mind and body. Beyond taking care of one’s self, seeking out new and unique venues might lead a person to such activities as hiking the Appalachian Trail, volunteering for civic work, mentoring a child, writing a book, becoming active in a church or social club, taking up a hobby, losing weight and/or becoming fit, writing a blog, getting a part-time job, running for public office, traveling, learning a new skill, becoming a guest speaker about your experiences, learning to drive a farm tractor. 

Advocates of active aging contend that the payoff is a healthier life that is more likely to extend into the upper 80s and 90s.

Extended life span speaks convincingly about active aging. Here in downtown Minneapolis at Augustana Senior Apartments. Miriam Manfred, age 103, leads the way. Highly respected, she still makes a leadership contribution to the community–plays the piano for groups. At home she is particularly fond of classical music.  

Mim, as we call her, was married 63 years to a Lutheran pastor. She grew up the daughter of a pastor, and two of her sons became pastors.

She quit driving at age 88 but still owns her car which is used primarily by out-of-town guests. As to self care, she walks outdoors daily as possible. Just five or six hours of sleep per night has always been enough, she reflects.

Andrew Martens’ story of active living is about growing smaller. He’s that big guy in the Augustana Apartments Barber/Beauty shop who trims my hair and perhaps yours. He has lost 70 pounds of late and has 100 pounds more to lose, he said. 

While that’s Andrew’s current self-care mission, his life focus is on regular meditation and practicing movement in various forms. Early during the coronavirus pandemic he found himself sitting way too much in front of the TV waiting for the virus to go away.

But now he’s working regularly at the shop, practicing his meditation daily, and accessing a web site that helps with mindfulness and spiritual growth. He’s also reading more non-meditation but well-written material. ”It’s all mind, body stuff,” he says.

As we concluded our conversation, Dr. Caperton spoke to some related questions. “Are some humans genetically endowed with the aptitude toward an active life? Or can the inclination be learned?” I asked. “The issue probably hasn’t been scientifically studied,” said the doctor.

“However, both appear to be true. You can acquire the personal style naturally. But if it’s not there and you feel you can turn yourself into an active person, then go for it.”  

Perhaps more importantly, I then asked if a person is ever too old to begin a program of personal activity in one’s own behalf.”

“No!” he replied. ”It’s never too late.”

Then, “Will fitness remain in style into the future, or is it a fad destined to fade away soon?” 

“My guess is that staying fit and healthy will remain popular. My prediction is that it will also become mandatory. Poor health is  expensive!”

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