---- — You may recall The Me Generation, a name that was attached to the baby boomers during the 1970s. This group was thought to be self-involved and sometimes condemned as narcissistic, selfish and indulgent. Putting yourself first was not held in high esteem by the general population; however, this all-about-me generation did bring forth really positive aspirations for self-realization and self-fulfillment.
And then the baby boomers got older, became responsible members of society, working at jobs and raising a family while serving their communities. Caring for others was a high priority.
But, as we are aging into the elder years, we need to shift our priorities at a time when we are leaving or have left our full-time jobs behind and our children no longer need us to take care of them. It is the time when we can, and must, once again, turn to self-care and make it top-priority.
Sometimes, it happens there is a sudden shift, like a “wake-up” call with a serious health challenge. It then becomes clear; we can no longer ignore our bodies and it may be the first time, ever, to confront mortality. Or, as often happens, the changes come on gradually, with a growing awareness we are not as young as we once were. It may be when we look in the mirror and notice the extra weight around the middle or when we acknowledge the chronic joint pain, but, at some point, we know things are different and it’s a whole new ball game.
Now, we are required to pay attention. Perhaps for decades, we have neglected ourselves, put our own needs to the side, sat by and watched the weight increase and the muscles weaken. But, as boomers and beyond, we have to adjust; we have to do better. With age must come a willingness to take better care of ourselves.
Part of caregiving to yourself is “exercise” (for want of a better word), but it may have a fair amount of negative connotations for you. Perhaps you never found anything that worked, a program you could follow on a regular and ongoing basis, one that would keep you fit. If strong motivation is lacking, it may require professional help to assist you in giving up the destructive habit of a sedentary lifestyle. This is not always an easy task to take on by yourself, and making excuses is what you do instead.
“I exercise plenty just living life, like cleaning the house, shopping for groceries, running around town in my car. That’s how I exercise.”
I might ask, “But, do your activities include concentrated stretching, strengthening and doing aerobics on a regular basis, three to five times a week? If not, you have a recipe for aging more quickly and seeing a decline in functionality.”
Another excuse that can be offered is:
“I have no time, not even two hours a week to spare. And besides, I can’t afford it. I don’t have money to join a club, or start a yoga class.”
I then might ask, “But, can you afford ill health that comes from a weak immune system or joints that are wearing out from inactivity?”
Again, it is a question of priorities. No matter what our financial position or our how busy we are, we all make decisions on how to spend our time and our money, beyond the absolute necessities. We may choose to spend our money on nonessentials, like a Starbucks coffee or the purchase of one more thing we could live without, but which gives us momentary, fleeting pleasure. Others have a large “weekly entertainment budget,” so they can meet their friends at a restaurant. Still others pay to add even more television channels, for their amusement. It is a choice we make.
Some questions you might ask yourself:
“Am I as generous with the time and money I give to myself as I am with loved ones?”
“Can I afford to keep neglecting myself, my health, my vitality and any potential longevity?”
“Do I have some time and enough motivation to do everything I can to heal what needs healing and to search for and find the help I need?”
“Do you believe committing to an exercise program will make you feel better and look better?”
And after all is said and done, a final question: “If I don’t take good care of myself, who will?”
Angelena Craig of Newburyport and Sarasota, Fla., teaches Wellness Workshops, Slow Flow Yoga, and Sit Down and Move classes. She may be reached through www.thenewagingmovement.com.