You’ve got a basic personal policy for aging, whether you know it or not. But do you have a strategy for aging?
Policy involves thinking. Strategy involves action. Policy is what you deduce that you should do. Strategy is what you decide you will do.
Regardless of your age, you have at least the germ of a policy: a thought, a principle, an attitude that guides your decision-making about growing old. It may be pretty vague, not even a thought but a feeling—for example, I should have fun while I can. Another underlying policy might be: I shouldn’t think about old age. Or a certain cognitive dissonance prevails, and the policy in brief is I shouldn’t change a thing because I will never be old.
I suppose I adopted this rather tentative policy: I should try to make my own old age as good as possible. And I did.
By doing something, doing a lot of little things, I even found my thinking about old age changed radically … for the better.
You’re much less likely to have a personal strategy for aging. Could be interesting to try this, right? Imagine you’re the Prime Minister of You, and you have to explain your comprehensive plan of action to prepare for your own old age. What is it?
Comparing strategies for old age and for a pandemic
Facing old age is not like dealing with a global pandemic, but I can’t help seeing a parallel. (Metaphorical thinking is the poet’s doom.) In March 2020 the New Zealand Government had to choose whether to “go early and go hard”, or whether to wait and see, reacting to events beyond their control. They went early and went hard with an instant nationwide lockdown.
When we look ahead to our own old age, we can choose between the same two options (and many variations).
EITHER A: Go early and go hard: tackle the five core lifestyle factors that influence the quality of old age head on. Start a rigorous exercise programme, examine your diet and fix all the problems, ramp up your social interactions, feed your brain with novelty and challenges, and don’t stop taking the meds your doctor prescribes for heart, blood pressure or diabetes.
OR B: Wait and see how old age pans out. Carry on with life as usual. Whenever you get hurt or ill or tired or depressed, go to the experts and let them plan your treatment.
I’m not saying that launching a personal strategy for aging is inevitably better than coasting along! You’re human, of course you will live life your way, and that’s good. I know many happy, healthy humans who take that approach with great success. However, if you are secretly anxious about the future, there can be great satisfaction in planning and executing a personal strategy for aging.
Best find a buddy and do it together—your way! Or join a dance group and tick three boxes at once.
Dancing for fitness, brain health, and friendship in old age
Eight dancers from Crows Feet Wellington, aged 50s–80s, performed at the Seasoned Symposium in Christchurch, April 2021. Helen Balfour choreographed “Birds of a Feather” for the occasion. Crows Feet welcomes anyone over 35 who wants to dance, and this dance displays our delight in dancing together as a group. Music is Schulwerk by Carl Orff. Video by Carolyn Sylvester of Sylvester Media.