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Putting the aging process in perspective

Joan Hatem-Roy, Chief Executive Officer

Q: My daughter recently celebrated her 40th birthday. She received many cards and gifts, some humorous, some sentimental, and was treated to a wonderful party. When the festivities were over, she acted a bit down and worried she was “getting old.” How do I help her put the aging process in perspective?

A: May is Older Americans Month, and the theme of this year’s celebration is “Communities of Strength,” recognizing the important role seniors play by sharing their talents, energy and resilience.

Some people claim that age is just a number while others assert you’re only as young as you feel. At our agency, we believe aging is a journey that can be improved when we take charge of our health to age strong.

One of the goals of our mission is to provide services that help older members of our community — and people with disabilities of all ages —to live safely and comfortably in their own homes, as they wish.

These services include home and personal care, transportation to medical appointments, Meals on Wheels, nutrition guidance, assistance with money management, exercise and disease management classes, and more. By eating well, keeping active, and practicing other aspects of self-care early, we can reduce the chances of developing chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and arthritis later in life.

The French novelist Victor Hugo wrote, “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.” But in the century and a half since he wrote that, an enormous amount has changed in the realms of healthcare, fitness and availability of social services.

For example, when the Roosevelt administration was crafting the Social Security program during the 1930s, officials set the eligibility age for benefits at 65 because the average lifespan was less than 62. It is now 77.

Today, lots of us know a friend or relative in their 90s, and centenarians are among the fastest-growing demographics in our population.

Your daughter need not feel old by turning 40. But this can be a useful milestone for her to take stock of her health to make sure she is on the path toward aging strong, practicing healthy habits that will pay marked dividends tomorrow.

With age comes perspective and wisdom that grows with an opportunity to reflect on our experiences. Having survived a unique year of the COVID-19 pandemic, people at all stages of life’s journey should commend themselves for coming through a crisis whose meaning we are still grappling with as a nation.

In this springtime of hope, warmer weather and vaccination, invite your daughter for a talk and walk to encourage her about the good times awaiting ahead.

Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email ageinfo@esmv.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.