Part 2: Active Seniors Share Their Secrets to a Long and Healthy Life

January 13, 2015 Providence Health Team

Last week, we introduced you to Paul and Nancy Wegeman. They’re in their 80s and have been married 60 years. They are active, vibrant seniors – living their lives to the fullest.

If you missed Seniors Share Secrets, their story about life’s challenges, aging and enjoying life in their twilight years, check it out. And, now, enjoy Part 2. 

Healthy, Active Lifestyle 

“I’ve got things to do!” exclaims Paul. Despite the injuries, illnesses and surgeries he’s faced over the years, he insists on “staying the course.” There’s no doubt, the Wegemans’ mind-set helps keep these two bright-eyed and bushy tailed. 

So, connect and commit – it makes a long life worth living. 

Creatures of habit. To stay on track, Paul and Nancy observe a fairly strict bedtime, and they rise every morning at 7 a.m. A good eight to nine hours of sleep a night gives them a solid start to their (inevitably) busy days. They stick to their weekly plans – work, exercise, meetings and socializing. When your calendar is anchored in ritual, you’re more likely to get things done. 

Social life. Maintain an active social calendar – it gives you a reason to get up every morning. Whether you meet with friends for lunch or a movie, or hit the slopes with a group of like-minded go-getters, you’ve got to have passion – to keep on living. 

Not everyone’s into it, but modern technology offers myriad options to help you stay in touch and “socialize” with family and friends. Get a smartphone and text your son or daughter, or join a social networking site and reconnect with old acquaintances. Keeping up with today’s techno-race can be challenging, but it helps you learn new skills and keep your mind engaged. 

Get involved. Whether it’s performing at church (Nancy plays piano and Paul sings), attending business conventions or traveling for pleasure, the Wegeman pair keeps busy. Nancy admits she felt lost after retiring from teaching at 79. “Having a full-time job all my life definitely contributed to my good health,” she says. When it was over, she needed to find something else to do. So, she (along with Paul) embarked on a new business venture – as a distributor for a home-based wellness company. 

“You have to have projects, challenge your brain and interact with people. Give and get back,” proclaims Nancy. That’s how life works. The job has re-energized the couple and put them on a fresh path. “We have renewed interest, focus, a place to go and things to do,” proclaims Nancy excitedly of their growing business. 

Relationships. Your emotional well-being is affected just by sharing time with other people, or even a pet. Your mood changes as you tune into someone else. The beauty of connection is that you can start at any age, even if you’re a self-proclaimed loner. So care for someone – a spouse or partner, a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, a dog or cat – and bolster the emotional side of your life. 

Brain action. An active brain is a sharp brain. “Learn something new each day – it’s critical,” asserts Nancy. It makes life interesting, keeps you thirsting for more. Paul taps into online brain training games while Nancy composes business newsletters and reads. Both of them relentlessly strive to engage their minds – to fend off Father Time. 

Take it in stride. Life has stressors – some good and some bad. The difference is how you handle it. Nancy recounted a story of their basement flooding. “It was stressful,” she said, “but at the end of the day, that flood wasn’t the essence of life. It was just a detail we had to deal with.” 

Paul calls it “mental gymnastics.” Stop complaining, and try to see the good in a bad day. It works, and you’ll be healthier for it. 

Any of the obstacles they encountered could easily have caused Paul and Nancy to give up their physical endeavors  and give in to old age. But, they refuse  surgery after surgery, ache after pain  to succumb to the curve balls life throws at them. 

Instead, they persevere and forge ahead. Why? Because life is worth it. And they’re worth it  to themselves, to each other and to those who love (and admire) them. 

The Final Secret 

“Visualize a triangle,” Paul instructs, “with equal sides of food, exercise and rest. Each day, you need to try to equalize these sides.” He adds, “I have always wanted to live long and do well.” A balanced life triangle provides that opportunity. 

“It’s having a grateful heart, for me,” says Nancy. She is thankful for love, community, and for every day God gives her and Paul to be the best they can be. 

The Wegemans are truly poster children for healthy aging. Paul maintains that even if your memory or physical agility declines over the years, “You have to keep your eyes on the goal.” 

Age doesn’t matter  it’s never too late to start improving your life. Make a difference in your health and fitness today. Like with Paul and Nancy, it just takes perseverance and a winning spirit – and you, too, can be on the road to a longer, healthier life well into your twilight years.

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