“It’s amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions.” — Charles Kettering
You will be reading this in December; however, I am writing this on Nov. 2, the Monday after my son ran his sixth New York City Marathon.
Every year, when I stand amongst the international flood of supporters and watch the wheelchair athletes, the blind runners, the people running to show they have overcome a devastating disease and the septuagenarians and octogenarians, I cry. I stand in awe of what human beings can do. So many people at that marathon have been told they were too sick, too old, too handicapped, and yet here they are, running 26.2 miles.
We are amazing creatures. Fauja Singh was 100 years old when he finished the 2011 Toronto Marathon. Dr. Leila Denmark was a “practicing pediatrician” until she retired at the age of 103. Tamae Watanabe scaled Mount Everest at the age of 73. Dr. Heinz Wenderoth earned a Doctor of Science at age 97. Minoru Saito was 77 years old when he sailed around the world. It took him 1,080 days. Dorothy Davenhill Hirsch visited the North Pole when she was 89, and John Glenn was 77 when he took his first trip into space.
I can’t help but ponder why some octogenarians can run marathons, while so many of us struggle with the basics like cooking a meal or going grocery shopping. There is a growing body of research that links successful aging to a person’s sense of “wellbeing,” and wellbeing has been closely linked to health.
Health is more than the absence of disease; it is a resource that allows a person to realize his aspirations, satisfy her needs and to cope with the environment in order to live a long, productive and fruitful life.
Environmental and social resources for health can include: peace, economic security, a stable ecosystem and safe housing.
Individual resources for health include: physical activity, healthful diet, social ties, resiliency, positive emotions and autonomy. Some personality factors that are strongly associated with wellbeing include optimism, extroversion and self-esteem.
So, I guess whether we run marathons or sit home feeling old and watching TV is in a large part due to our personal sense of wellbeing. The evidence is mounting almost daily. We can’t give in to lethargy. We need to stay connected, engaged and optimistic, and set audacious goals no matter our age.
Now, I am not saying that those marathoners got up on the day of the marathon, told themselves they could do it and went on to run 26.2 miles. Each of them forced him/herself to move his body daily, regardless of how he felt, how cold it was, or how tired she was. They eat well even when others around them did not, and yes, they believed they could.
By the way, my son did well and finished in 3 hours and 35 minutes.
Let me know what you are doing to stay amazingly well into your 90s and beyond. Please send me an email at [email protected] or write to me at Senior Services of Albany, 32 Essex St., Albany 12206.
Be well and be happy.