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Getting Older Younger

By Raphaelita Karah Newton

Dedicated to Rena Sands Roberts and Alvina Butler Taylor

"A man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." - Dr Myles Munroe

I was born and raised in the United States. I'm not officially a citizen of the Bahamas. However, for the most part I feel as if I am. My family roots run deep in the Bahamas. When I visit the lovely island of Nassau, I'm super inquisitive, asking the names of different streets.

"Vastie, (that's one of my sisters born and raised in Nassau) what's the name of this street again?" "Carmichael Road" "OK, yeah. Carmichael Road...is that the road where the business Andrew works for is located?" (Andrew Hanna is my nephew, one of Vastie's sons) Vastie replies in the affirmative. "So, Vastie, does Carmichael Road run into Blue Hill Road?"

On and on I go with questions about the various streets and landmarks around beautiful Nassau. Even though I wasn't born in the Bahamas, there's always a sense of coming home when I visit this exotic tropical island with the beautiful beaches, tasty island dishes and treats (crab and rice, guava duff, benny candy, steamed/cracked conch and peas and rice), the unique accent, the friendly people -- you know what I mean -- because you have the privilege of living on this awesome island every day.

On one of my previous visits to Nassau I took an early morning walk along Yamacraw Road with another one of my sisters. Witnessing the majestic sunrise over the tranquil sea brought to mind an oft-cited quote by the late Dr Myles Munroe: "God lives in the Bahamas."

It may be that Dr Munroe was right. Just maybe. With such surrounding natural beauty and gentler pace of life, I'm thinking to myself, the Bahamas is the perfect place to age gracefully, to "get older younger". What follows are my suggestions for aging beautifully.

It was brought to my attention unexpectedly, and somewhat as a shock, that I was no longer a young person. I vaguely recall the time and place of this revelation, however, what remains etched in my memory are the two words by which a 19-year-old addressed me, "Hello, Ma'am!" I had never previously been addressed in this fashion. At the precise moment those two words were uttered I was made acutely aware that I was now 39, and speedily approaching that magical age of 40.

Now, mind you, I will be the first to admit that it is indeed a privilege, honour and blessing to get older. This incident happened over a decade ago. The question I asked myself at that moment was, "How do I get older younger?" This question may appear to be an oxymoron. But, wait, please give me a moment to explain.

There are some people who hold on tenaciously to their youthfulness as they age, due perhaps in part to luck of their genetics. Genetics aside, I believe that there are others factors that play a significant role in aging youthfully. Let's face it, all of us are getting older by the minute.

Aging is not a curse, but a blessing. The key issue in aging is how do we age with beauty and grace. We will explore several factors that can help us grow older more youthfully.

Changing the way we think

The first factor has nothing to do with outward appearances. It has everything to do with our inner being. Now, even I am curious as to what this could be. It is simply how we think. Our thinking patterns, concepts, ideologies and perception of the world which we come in contact with, and how we view and process reality all play a significant part in aging youthfully.

Learning to think positive, even in negative circumstances, helps our inner self to grow older gracefully. My thought life is an area in which I have to consistently challenge myself. For me, this is a lifetime project. I am by no means saying that we should deny the reality in front of us, but whatever situation we are facing, let's maintain a hopeful outlook, envision a good outcome, and take positive action. Do what you can within your power, and trust God for wisdom and direction. Do not succumb to worry. Worry tends to age us faster. This is another area where I am challenging myself, and yes, I've made vast improvements, yet there is still enormous room for me to grow in worrying less and trusting God more.

One avenue that we can use to re-configure our thinking pattern is to seek exposure beyond our immediate environment. Let me clarify this with an example. If you're exposed exclusively to rap or hip hop music, how about sampling a different genre of music, such as classical music, jazz or Bahamian rake n' scrape? Who knows, you might enjoy the change in music scenery and you might even learn something new in the process.

Venture beyond the borders of what you're accustomed to and expose yourself to new experiences or a different environment. It does not necessarily require money to offer yourself exposure beyond your social or cultural environment. There is free access to an abundance of resources that expand our horizons. Sitting in on one of the many free educational seminars or presentations put on by the University of the Bahamas throughout the year, watching an inspiring documentary on television, and exploring positive new ideas on the internet are all ways to expand the boundaries of your environment. If there is a particular subject that you are passionate about, join a local club that specialises in the subject, or even start your own club. Listen to programmes that inspire you to think outside of the box in a powerful, positive manner. I am emphasising positive because there are so many negative things out there. We have to safeguard our way of thinking from negative influences.

Eat right…Get moving

The second area in which you can improve your chances of aging youthfully is eating - eating healthier, in addition to including some type of exercise to your daily schedule. That sounds simple and easy enough, but if you're like me, it takes some planning. Here are some steps that I've taken for a healthier lifestyle.

I replaced soda beverages with water. I treat myself to soda on special occasions, being careful not to overdo it. If you don't like water, try adding lemon to your water. Replace your craving for sweets with your favourite fruits. Again, on those special occasions treat yourself to a limited amount of sweets. By the time we reach age 21, our bodies have completed growing. So while adolescents need generous amounts of food to accommodate growing cells, for the rest of us it makes sense to decrease the portion size of our meals. I know this is easier said than done. I'm still fighting the battle of resisting that extra serving of food.

Find an exercise that you enjoy. If you have a tight schedule with family, work and other demands vying for your attention, consider short 15 to 30 minutes exercise sessions five days a week. Speak with your doctor, or a health professional to see what type of exercise will work best for you.

Take advantage of the year-round warm, sunny weather that you in the Bahamas are blessed with. Do some outdoor exercise. Walk on one of those long stretches of beach, like Goodman's Bay beach or around the scenic seaside Montagu Park. My sister who lives in Nassau makes an adventure out of walking the secluded beach behind Stokes Cabana on Yamacraw Road. If the sun's just too hot for outdoor exercise, take your walks in the air-conditioned comfort of the Mall at Marathon. Read and listen to information that will help you increase your knowledge of healthy eating and exercise. Select what will work for you and incorporate it into your life style.

There's a litany of health advice that we've heard all our lives: drink eight glasses of water, get eight hours sleep, eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables, cut back on carbohydrates, consume less red meat, drink alcohol in moderation, get an annual physical. These pieces of advice are repeated so often that, for most of us, they've taken on the quality of mom's nagging. Truth is, it's all excellent advice that would do us a world of good to heed, with the added bonus of slowing down the aging process.

Looking your best

Take time to go that extra step to look as physically attractive as possible. You don't have to spend a fortune to look nice. Take advantage of sales to buy quality clothing and grooming products. You don't have to be a fashionista to look your best. If you are a man, enhancing your looks can be as simple as a good shave or a haircut; if you don't want to cut your hair, keep it neatly shaped and trimmed. Ladies, your lips are the focal point of your face. Apply your favourite lip color to add pizzazz to your natural beauty. Sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference.

A smile is a natural accessory you can put on in a flash. A smile relaxes the facial muscles and brings a sparkle to your entire countenance. Keep a youthful smile on your face. When I was growing up in Deerfield there was an older lady by the name of Mary Joyce Philpart who always had a youthful smile on her face which made her look 10 years younger. A smile does wonders for your appearance.

Get out and enjoy life

Get out of the house, go and enjoy yourself. Pick up your local newspaper to find out what is happening in your city or town. The Tribune is excellent in keeping their readers updated on all the noteworthy events taking place. Pick up a copy of the Weekend edition of The Tribune for a complete rundown on all that's happening around town.

Lend a hand

The last thing is, enjoy life. Be kind to yourself as well as others. Don't over extend yourself. Do something special for yourself at least once a week. Do something kind for others on daily basis, and that includes your family. If you are a retiree, volunteer a fraction of your time with an organisation. I have a family member (Cousin Gwen) who volunteers at the local hospital. She enjoys herself while helping and meeting others. You may not want to volunteer at a hospital; there are many other organisations that need volunteers. Spend a few hours a week chatting and giving hugs to the kids at the Children's Emergency Centre. Sign up to volunteer with the Red Cross, or work an hour at a church soup kitchen.

Years are a badge of honour. You've paid your dues to society in your youth and middle age. Now is time for a little extra self-indulgence. It's a blessing to advance in years, healthier and more youthfully. So enjoy yourself as you get older younger.

• Raphaelita Karah Newton is an American writer based in Atlanta with deep roots in the Bahamas. Her articles feature a variety of lifestyle topics. For comments and questions e-mail lakeridgesocial@aol.com.

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