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The Rewards of Aging
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— October 15, 2013

The Rewards of Aging

By Linda Melone
  • The passing years can result in more time for favorite pursuits—and a wiser outlook.
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Don’t tell Sherman London that aging means slowing down and failing health.
After 20 years as the editor of a daily Waterbury, Connecticut, newspaper, London retired but quickly decided that lounging and taking it easy wasn’t for him. “I tried golf but was never a golfer,” he says.

Instead, London went to work as a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and covered major disasters including Hurricane Andrew and the Northridge earthquake in California. “That kept me going for three to four years, but I stopped taking assignments when I realized I was away from home too much,” he recalls.

London was then appointed to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, which, as he puts it, “fights for transparency in government.” He served 17 years, noting that “working on the commission was a great position for a retired newspaper man.”

After London’s wife died two years ago he entered an assisted living facility. There he quickly joined the residents council, a six-member group that fields complaints from the residents. Now 91, London has done more in his retirement years than many much-younger people accomplish in a working lifetime. “I’m happiest when I’m doing things,” he explains.

Staying Safe at Home
Not only are falls painful, they can be deadly. The Centers for Disease Control reports that falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among older adults and may also result in often-disabling fractures and head trauma.

Regular exercise and eye exams can help reduce your risk of falling, and getting adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium along with vitamins D and K2 can make it less likely that you’ll suffer a fracture if you do take a tumble. But it’s also important to view your home with an eye towards increased safety:

• Eliminate trip-inducing clutter, secure electric cords and use double-sided tape to securely tack down rugs.
• Make sure there’s enough room between furniture to walk freely.
• Increase lighting as needed to reduce dark areas and shadows; having adequate light in stairwells is especially important.
• Install railings on both sides of staircases; make sure they’re strong enough to support your full weight.
• Place grab bars and nonstick strips in the tub or shower and use a shower chair; if you have vision problems place brightly colored decals on clear shower doors.
• Install grab bars around the toilet along with an elevated seat.
• Cover sharp corners to reduce injury risk in case of a fall.
• Keep smoke detectors in good working order.
• Place commonly used items, including kitchen gear, where they can be easily accessed; if you do need to climb, use a stepstool instead of a chair.
• Choose footwear with nonslip soles for use in the house.
• Have someone else remove snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways; install sturdy railings on steps leading from porches and decks.

Finally, take extra care if you’ve experienced significant stress, such as the loss of a loved one. A recent study in Age and Aging found that stressful life events raised one’s risk of falling in the following year by 41%.

A Happier Old Age

Clearly, the adage “age is a state of mind” holds true for London, and he’s not alone. The physical and mental decline stereotypically associated with aging is being pushed back, often by decades. About 40 million Americans are older than 65, and those over age 80 comprise the fastest-growing segment of the population. Many remain active well after retirement.

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