Arriving at a Big Birthday can’t help but trigger intimations of mortality. Still, a milestone birthday is a precious gift. Treat your body and mind carefully and look forward to the next milestone.
1. Mindfulness—being completely in touch with, and aware of, the present moment—is an important aspiration for all of us. If we are mindful and make good life choices, so many other good things will follow . . . at any age.
2. Multi-tasking is the enemy of mindfulness. Improve your cognitive function by avoiding thinking about (or trying to do) several things at once; that is the cause of much avoidable injury. For instance, it is impossible to retrieve a word you’re searching for and at the same time remember why you’re walking into the next room. Say it out loud: “I am going to my bedside table to get that copy of Canada I’m enjoying so much.” Say it out loud even if you are alone: If you’re alone, who cares? Remember, the brain is a bit like a computer: If you don’t store that name or idea, you’ll never be able to retrieve it. And you can’t store it unless you give it some attention.
3. It is easy to get lost when traveling at any age if you don’t discuss the route out loud with someone, consult a map, and look for landmarks. Mindfulness again! When we are traveling in unfamiliar territory, we must be especially vigilant with our focus. Getting there first is not the goal. Completing the journey without incident is priceless.
3. Exercise daily, with careful attention to your personal musculo-skeletal issues. Don’t lift heavy weights as you age, since the danger of damaging that delicate shoulder mechanism is not worth it. Lifting heavier weights causes the shoulder girdle and upper back and neck muscles to pitch in, worsening your posture and creating avoidable pain syndromes.
4. If you have musculo-skeletal pain or decreased range of motion, see a physical therapist and learn the daily exercises that you need to gradually improve these issues. The foam roller, for example, used daily to stretch out the chest and improve the range of motion of shoulders, is a great example of a quick, simple, inexpensive daily activity that will decrease symptoms, improve flexibility, and allow the use of light weight work every other day.
5. Never multi-task when in motion. Be mindful. Walk defensively. Assume that there is a six-year-old terrorist on a training bicycle in focused motion aiming at the back of your legs, ready to knock you over. Stay close to buildings, where there is less room for these motion martyrs—the children on bikes who are likely to run into you.
6. Avoid unnecessary communication when in motion: No cell phone–talking or texting. There is only one POTUS, after all. For the rest of us, our never-urgent phone calls can wait until we can move into a still position.
7. Assume that in new environments (hotels, a guest bedroom in someone’s home), the path to the bathroom in the middle of the night is only six inches wide and that there is a deep cavern on either side. Make certain to clear the path of any object and leave a light on. It is a good idea to travel with a nightlight that can be plugged in near your bed.
8. Never rise quickly from lying flat in bed from sleeping. Sit up and mindfully allow your blood pressure to readjust and send more blood to the brain. Many injuries occur from moving too quickly from a supine to a standing position. All of these injuries are unnecessary.
9. Alcohol causes sleep disruption, confusion, and leads to many accidents. Be mindful of how much alcohol you have consumed, and ask yourself if its taste and mood-alteration “benefits” are worth the price of a fall, a fracture, an operation to repair the fracture, the long recovery, and perhaps constant pain and reduction in mobility.
10. Sleep medications are often used when traveling for “jet lag.” These medications can cause disorientation and decrease cognitive abilities. Think twice before taking a prescription sedative or sleep medication when traveling.
Gratitude is such a positive emotion; look for it and acknowledge it throughout each day. Remember, every birthday is itself a big gift!