When I look back on my younger years, I see fad diets giving way to pizza parties. I see fitful bouts of exercise, followed by long fallow periods where I pushed a pencil across paper (well, that’s the life of a fiction writer). But everything changed when I hit my mid-60s. Suddenly, I was looking down the end of the barrel at 70. After experiencing a life-threatening health scare last year, I stepped away from my computer and added a daily walk to my routine. Over several months, I lost 15 pounds. No, it wasn’t easy. Sometimes I craved a thick slice of lemon ice box pie or a pulled pork sandwich. And sometimes I ate the damn pie. But the next day, I tried to eat foods that nourished my body in some way: spinach pinwheels, planked salmon, mixed berries, slow-cooked beans.
60-something men and women are in the “stay-strong decade,” according to Prevention magazine. The idea isn’t to build muscles but to maintain strength (preparing us for our 70s, the “Balance” decade). You won’t find me at the health club, doing cardio or running on a track. I know my limits, and I respect them. For me, a daily walk is beneficial to the heart and spirit, especially I’m joined by Gladys the cat.
My husband and I did quite a bit of research about nutrition (I’m an R.N., and he’s an M.D.). Nutrition can be tricky for seniors: high cholesterol, diabetes, atrial fib, and other disorders. You might say it’s complicated. Since my husband and I don’t take anticoagulants, we decided to incorporate plenty of fresh, leafy greens into our meals. Always consult your physician before making changes to your activity level or diet. For example, my mother takes Coumadin, a blood thinner, and she won’t eat anything green (because dark, leafy greens are great sources of Vitamin K, and K will interfere with Mom’s INR level).
Aside from diet and exercise, it’s important for seniors to stay engaged in life. The hilltop keeps us busy, but I like to plan activities outside the home, gently pushing us into the vibrant, irreplaceable world. This past weekend was cold and rainy, but I cajoled my sedentary husband into seeing a few movies (I loved Isle of Dogs, and his favorite was A Quiet Place). Like my mother always says, “Anything that makes a person put on lipstick and get out of the house is a good thing.”
Well, maybe not for a guy, but you get the idea.
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Photos: Tyler West