By 2020, the population of Americans ag e 55 to 64 will have grown an unprecedented 73 percent since 2000. But as the population ages, the possibilities and potential for their value is also growing with the passage of time.
People are proving that a trip around the sun doesn’t limit their ability to continue to add value to their community and families. Instead, they’re breaking physical barriers and defying time’s ticking.
Ken Dychtwald, president and CEO of the consulting firm AgeWave, moderated the Aging in America Conference last April. In a recent Huff Post article Dychtwald said:
“Today a new model of life is emerging. People want to distribute the longevity bonus. They are going back to school at 40 and coming back from illness to run a marathon at 80. They are beginning as late bloomers and hitting their stride in later years.” And his best line: “We are thinking of people as beginners again and again.”
The larger implication in all of this is that the common expectation of declining health in later years is being defeated by the current pursuits of the baby boomers. Many attribute this expectation to a growing search for and practice of spirituality by the boomer generation. (NBC: As they age, baby-boomers seek spirituality.) You could say they are living proof of this wisdom from the Bible:
“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed” (Romans 12: 2).
That is certainly what Honor Hill from Dallas, Texas is doing. For many years she gave public lectures on a spiritual view of aging, sharing the benefits prayer brings to one's life and health. She’s still working today as a Christian Science practitioner, alongside her relatively new pursuit of training and participating in marathons. We recently chatted over the phone about her thoughts on the topic.
“In my lectures I often said, ‘We know that old is the opposite of young. But old is also the opposite of new.’ I would then challenge the audience to think about what they did to grow new every day. Because to experience something new every day is to embrace life.”
Honor says our limitations are truly mental in nature and that we’ve come a long way since her grandmother’s time when it would never have been thought possible to run a marathon at her age.
Honor first entered a 5K walking race. Then, after progressing to a couple of half marathons, she decided to walk a half marathon in her home town of Newcastle upon Tyne in England last September. She walked the 13.1 miles and made it in 2 hr. 51 min. (Her best time now is 2 hr. 43 min.)
She’s had to work her way up to the running. Honor candidly admits she’s better at walking than at running. “I love running, especially when I’m not actually doing it!” In fact she’s a faster walker than all of her friends, even the younger ones. (I told her I’m a pretty fast walker and she challenged me to beat her time! I'm going to have to test my time on the new Bowditch Field track in Framingham.)
Training in the hot Dallas sun isn’t easy with summer temps often pushing over 100. As Honor sought spiritual inspiration to guide her training and performing, she's given a lot of thought to the importance of exercising wisdom and humility. “I think we need to avoid hubris–pridefully doing things we’re not really ready to do," she explains. "I strive to be humble, submit to wisdom, and at the same time not submit to limitation.”
Honor has found her balance with exercising wisdom and pushing beyond common barriers related to age. She is clear about her motive for pursuing her sport. “I don’t run to defy common thoughts about aging, I’m doing it because I love to do it. I’ve made new friends and found new ways of looking at the world. It’s about newness.”
Honor said she’s never experienced injury or illness while pursuing her sport, which she attributes to her daily prayer practice. “I focus on the joy of it . . . it’s just a lot of fun.”
What else does she do for fun? She's recently picked up another pursuit: playing the bagpipes!
Ingrid lives in Framingham, where she and her husband manage three busy kids, a Lab who's sniffed every trail at Callahan and a ragdoll cat. She blogs on spirituality and health and is also a Christian Science practitioner. You can see more on her website "Breaking Bread" at masshealthblog.com.