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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Letter from Publisher

Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength. ~Betty Friedan

We can learn a lot about our society’s attitude towards older people by simply observing birthday cards and party decorations for people over the age of 50. The mocking phrases, glum banners and cardboard tombstone cutouts displayed in the greeting card section may all be in good fun, but they still reveal our cultural disdain for, and dread of, aging.

For women, the messaging is even more extreme: magazines offer countless tips to help us appear younger than we are, pushing us head first into the fountain of youth-preserving, anti-aging products and services purporting to eliminate unwanted wrinkles, inches, cellulite, grey hair and more. And what would we do without the Lycra, spandex and silicone enhancements to boost our sagging body parts?

Yet scientific research suggests that a very different attitude toward aging is more effective for keeping us young. National Geographic Fellow and New York Times bestselling author Dan Buettner and his team of researchers discovered five places in the world where people live longest and are healthiest. Dubbed the “Blue Zones,” the areas include the Italian island of Sardinia; the northern part of the island of Okinawa, Japan; the Seventh-day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California; Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula; and the Greek island of Ikaria.

On average, elders in the Blue Zones live 12 high-quality years longer than the rest of us. The researchers discovered 10 healthy lifestyle practices common to them all: (1) moving naturally throughout the day rather than engaging in scheduled exercise; (2) knowing and living your purpose; (3) giving back each day; (4) taking time daily to downshift through rest, naps or prayer; (5) eating primarily a plant-based diet with meat treated as a side dish; (6) avoiding overeating; (7) drinking moderately; (8) prioritizing family; (9) maintaining a healthy tribe of friends that share your health and lifestyle values; and (10) attending a faith-based or spiritual service on a regular basis. The most salient factor in my mind, though, is how older people are treated in these societies; the older a person is, the more they are valued and respected.

This issue, themed “Graceful Aging,” reminds us that age is just a number and you’re only as old as you feel. Inside these pages, readers will find practical reminders that self-care, common-sense eating habits, exercise, positive attitudes and spending time with loved ones are the everyday magical ingredients for defying old age, both mentally and physically. No matter how many times we’ve circled the sun, actions as simple as a daily calming walk through the park can keep us on the path of youthful health.

A few wrinkles and gray hairs or the occasional stiff knee may be inevitable, but each of us can set our own course for healthful aging. Don’t let greeting card companies determine if you’re “over the hill”. Aging gracefully is a state of mind.

Here’s to living life to the fullest at any age.

Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher