Fifteen years ago, then nearly 50, I started keeping my list of “Stupid Things I’ll Never Do When I’m Old.” That list got longer every year (in my humble opinion) as I kept track of all the things my parents were doing wrong. I vowed not to do either.

I would have grown wiser and more graceful.

As the years went by, my parents’ refusal to accept their physical and mental decline was at the top of my list. My father knew how dangerous falls can be because both of his parents (my grandparents) died as a result of falling, tripping and tripping problems. However, Dad refused the cane until he wanted a walker. Then he refused the footman. He fell so many times I lost count. Then came the day of a strong fall, he broke four ribs, which put him in the ICU.

Two weeks later, my siblings and I bid him farewell as he lay dying at home.

I was 59 at the time. Even after observing my father’s (and grandfather’s) deadly instability, I didn’t feel the need to take my own advice. Like them, I had equal measures of denial and hubris. The old one was for tomorrow; The old one was for other people.

But within months of my 60th birthday, I did my first stupid thing. I needed a book from the top shelf, but did I go get the standard? is not. With stock feet, I climbed onto the table instead. With one foot over there and the other on the chair, I still couldn’t reach him.

As I tried to pull myself up, I finally heard a voice in my head scolding me for the “stupid thing” I was doing. I stepped down from the awkward balcony and fetched the stepladder. Book retrieved. No falling out – at least not yet.

At that moment, Naakha’s face jumped. Jack Russell Terrier“Am I being my father?” I asked myself. I remember him in his last decade: determined, in denial and afraid of losing his freedom. And I had a vision: getting older is not so easy.

We’ve all heard that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” A friend who saw parents struggle with new flaws and fears reminded me, “No matter how much we tell ourselves, we’ll never be like our parents. If we run in the other direction, hard and fast, we’ll be them.” “

That scared me. But what else can I do?

Many of my generation – the boomers – equate aging with illness, loneliness and disability. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Deborah Carr, sociologist, in her 2023 book, “Aging in AmericaPowerful economic, technological and cultural changes in recent decades mean that the elderly in 2050 will lead very different lives than people of retirement age today.

I find that my list of stupid things not to do is a way of promising myself how to be smarter.

I hoped to hold myself accountable by writing them; By sharing them, I hope others will learn about what we think is old and how we can make new and better choices. Studies show Health pledges can encourage people to take small, simple steps that can lead to significant improvements in health.

It is easy to fall into self-doubt if one begins to think that one is sick, sick, or old. The World Health Organization reported Older adults live an average of 7.5 years longer than those with positive attitudes toward aging.

Becca Levy, professor of public health and psychology at Yale and author of “Breaking the Age Rule: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Long and Well You Live” He wrote, “In study after study, I’ve found that older adults who have positive attitudes about aging do better physically and cognitively than those who have negative attitudes. They are more likely to survive serious injuries, remember better, walk faster and even live longer.

So I’m making an effort to appreciate the gifts of a different age than my parents and I’m starting to take small steps towards living better.

  • Use hearing aids when necessary. I checked my hearing; While not perfect, the audiologist says I’m good for at least a few years. My father, on the other hand, did not get help for his hearing, which kept him isolated. I’m determined to get hearing aids when I need them, and I’ll write about that because I know me. There is no isolation.
  • Stay socially engaged. My parents’ social world shrank as they aged. I’ve been expanding mine to include young people in particular. Studies show Friendship of generations Value the positive impact on health and psychological well-being for young and old.
  • Move. Health experts are clear about the importance of staying active as you age. Even if I could, that’s what I’m doing, unlike my mother who gets increasingly withdrawn and lonely. I’m back on the dance floor now that we can swing and sweat together again as the epidemic subsides. Not only is it an endorphin high, but according to Kelly McGonigal, author of “The joy of movement He wrote. “Joint action reminds us that we belong, and coming in reminds us of where the community belongs.”
  • Try to smile. I smile a lot at people I know (even my dog) and strangers. Smiling triggers a chemical reaction in the brain.Dopamine and serotonin (increases happiness and reduces anxiety, respectively).
  • Don’t climb on things. Ask for help when something is out of reach. If your balance is a problem, use a cane or walker. Don’t let denial lead you to make unwise choices. And declutter your home – remove area rugs and barriers.

All this is not easy and takes practice. In the end I felt my parents did their best. But I remember Andrew Weill, the author of “Healthy aging“We are not hostages to our destiny,” he argued, meaning people can make smart choices that improve their later lives.

I actually wrote that sentence on a blue post-it and stuck it on my bathroom mirror to check every morning – first on my left foot and then on my right, for balance. I want to end my family’s legacy of fatal failure. Wish me well.

Washington Post contributing columnist Steven Petrou is the author of the bookStupid Things I Won’t Do at My Age: All the things our overly judgmental, unapologetically honest elders are doing wrong.He said.