The Golden Years: A Mindful Approach to Living

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

By Lisa M. Belisle, MD, MPH
Originally published September 11, 2007, The Maine Switch

I love the idea of retirement. Traveling, spending time with our loved ones, focusing on our wellness and relaxing: what wonderful life-enhancing activities! Of course, why wait until we are 65? My older patients have taught me that the best way to be hale and happy throughout one’s later years is to start the process in one’s earlier years. In recognition of this, and of “Healthy Aging Month,” let’s seek to make each of our years golden by living mindfully. In other words:

Think a lifelong learner. Broaden your horizons by exploring subjects such as “Eating with the Seasons: A Chinese Medicine Approach,” to be held October 23 at the MaineHealth Learning Resource Centers (207-781-1730).

...about ways to stay active. Consider a membership at the local YMCA. On September 28, learn more about the Casco Bay Branch (207-865-9600) as part of “Healthy Aging: a Day at the YMCA.”

...about becoming a golden years-guru. The Partnership for Healthy Aging and the Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging regularly hold classes such as “Living Well for Older Adults.” To learn more, call 800 427-7411, ext. 529.

Do delicious foods that benefit your body. September is also “National Eat 5-to-9 a Day for Better Health Month,” because studies have shown that this tasty food group prevents many diseases, enabling us to reach a ‘ripe’ old age (sorry, I had to slip that one in). For more information, visit

...get a handle on your health. See your medical provider regularly, and take advantage of events such as the Prostate Cancer Screening Clinic on September 22 (September happens to be “Prostate Health Month,” too) at Maine Medical Center in Scarborough (207-885-7697).

...maintain your connections with others. Some of my most youthful older patients are those who have kept in touch with their friends and family. One patient in her eighties still travels to Boston regularly to ‘lunch with the girls.’

...a neophile, or (as I’ve written about before), a “lover of newness.” Start with something easy: try a new approach to your 5-to-9 daily servings of produce. My mother recently added shredded beets to her salad for the first time and enjoyed them, despite a previous childhood aversion to said veggies. Remember John Wayne, who said, “Courage is being scared to death—and saddling up anyway.” explorer of places near and far. Take the ferry to Peak’s Island. Plan a trip to Southern France. No matter where you end up, chances are you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.

...forgiving and grateful. Life is too short to hold grudges, and too rich not to give thanks for our blessings. A daily ‘gratitude journal’ can serve to remind you of your good fortune.

Most of us have many more golden years ahead of us than we might think possible. By ‘saddling up’ and living mindfully, we can take advantage of these and age with joy. Start now—think like a lifelong learner, get a handle on your health and be a neophile. Why wait until retirement to enhance your existence?

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