Thursday, April 15, 2010

20 down, 80 to go

I'd like to start out by saying a GIANT HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to Sambo. Today is her 21st birthday so we're hosting a jamboree here tonight. The balloons have been blown up, streamers are streaming and cupcakes are decorated (rather adorably!) all thanks to Adrienne who is apparently the party goddess. Unfortunately, Sam is sick today, on her birthday, which is bad news bears, but hopefully she'll feel better soon!
Speaking of birthdays, on my list of things to do before I die is celebrate my 100th birthday. If I don't make it to 100, I want my funeral to be a giant 100th birthday party with party hats, noisemakers, a giant fabulous birthday cake and with a singing of happy birthday. I'm not sure what gave me this idea, or what possessed me to want to live that long, but I think it might have been a 20/20 episode on centenarians and how so many of them are even still driving and playing shuffle board and bocce. People have been searching for immortality forever, assuming that there must be some secret recipe to living well into the hundreds. Even Oprah has hosted writers and travelers who claim they have discovered the secret to a long life in the mountains in some far off country by watching a specific civilization that tend to live longer than the average North American. I am not convinced there is a secret formula to surviving old age. But I won't lie, I do take note of the suggested tips when I come across these articles.
As we age, our resting metabolic rate slows down, and consequently we need fewer calories. This is the reason that many people gradually gain weight as they age despite not changing any dietary habits or decreasing the amount of physical activity they do. Muscle burns more calories at rest then fat does, so the decrease in fat free mass that accompanies aging also contributes to aging weight gain. We spend so much of our time consumed by what we are consuming and trying to look like the movie stars and be fit and lean. But eventually, when we become senior citizens, having a little bit of extra weight on us is actually beneficial. Obviously staying healthy; eating well and getting regular exercise and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake is important in order to reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases which can shorten your life span, but at what age is ok to screw it all and eat what you want and stop forcing yourself to go to the gym and go for those early morning or rainy day runs? I plan to live to be at the very least 100 years old, and I don't want to die at 100 after having spent the last few years of my life sickly and frail. That's another 80 years from now. 80 years to this day I hope to be having a celebratory birthday drink with Sam. Unlikely I know, but my fingers are crossed.
To live to be 100 means that I can't throw in the towel on the trying to be healthy and exercising everyday too early. I have no idea how long it would take my body to deteriorate once I stop, but I assume that the older I get, the faster it'll happen. I don't mean throw in the towel completely, I mean not caring as much about eating healthy and actually eating what I like all the time, even if that means cupcakes and Mississippi Mud or apple pie at every meal. Sounds quite fabulous actually, to be old enough not to care if I gain 20 lbs because I'll be able to justify it by telling myself it's actually good more me to gain weight.

I have decided that the best way to accomplish this goal (even though it is very possible I will have no control over whether or not I am successful in reaching 100) is to eat healthy and exercise daily now, but more importantly to be active within the community and to continue to do so into my 100s. Who knows, maybe I'll still be serving breakfast to middle school kids on my 90th birthday. Being involved in the community, having friends and being happy are, in my opinion, the keys to surviving old age. No matter how healthy you are, you can't live for 100 years + by yourself. What good would living that long be if you had no one to share it with? I think being active in the community just gives you stuff to do on a daily basis; a reason to leave the house and socialize and get out there and walk and get your blood moving, not to mention use your noggin and keep your brain nice and fresh.

Oh man, can you imagine how many memories you'll have stored up in there after 100 years on earth. It makes me wonder what I will actually remember then that I remember now. I assume that at some point your brain will start selectively replacing the least important memories with the newer more important ones. The memories and knowledge I perceive as important now could be completely irrelevant in 100 years and may disappear from my knowledge bank forever. I'm sure that technology will replace some mundane, daily task we are accustomed to doing ourselves and there will come a day when I realize that I don't even know how to complete that task anymore. I'm trying to think of an example...folding laundry perhaps? I don't think I would mind no longer knowing how to fold laundry. Wow, this living to be 100 thing just keeps looking better!

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