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Doctor busts myths about aging

Doctor, musician performing at UNF Monday night

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dr. Bill Thomas, a Harvard educated physician of geriatrics, says everything we know about getting older is wrong.

"What we don't know is that aging is one of the most spectacular achievements of human kind," Thomas said. "Aging is what actually completes us as human beings."

Thomas is touring the country trying to clear up misconceptions about aging.

"Research shows that if you ask someone what they think old is, they describe 15 years from the age they are," Thomas said. "What I'm trying to do is get them to embrace where they are right now."

Thomas has 10 suggestions to growing older:

1. Protect your kids and elders from the cult-like addiction and devotion to youth. Push back against the encroachment of inverted values on kids' and elders' turf. Let the kids be kids and let the elders grow old gracefully. Say no to standardized tests in kindergarten. Don't worship youth as perfection.

2. Ignore the anti-aging gurus and quackery. Toss the creams, supplements, and elixirs. Say no to botox, human growth hormones and other expensive and even dangerous snake oils that give you nothing but false hope. Resist the pressure and don't succumb to the idea that the only good older person is one who looks and acts like a younger person.

3. Look in the mirror and embrace yourself. Love yourself the way you are. Don't accept the idea that aging is defined solely as a matter of decline. Rejoice in the fact that lots of things get better and improve with age. Enjoy the fact that there is more happiness and less stress, anger and strife.

4. Slow down and focus on quality time. Stop letting your time-saving gadgets, apps, and technology take over the natural rhythms in your life. Turn them off. Turn the volume down. Get away from them. Go outside. Take a walk every day. Meditate. Have a conversation with a loved one. Break the pandemic hurry sickness.

5. Choose how you spend your time. Think about how you spend each day. Choose to do less things you don't like or enjoy. Choose to do more things that you like to do. Don't say yes, when you want to say no. Say no and do what you want to do instead. Spend more time with the people you enjoy and less time with the people you don't.

6. Volunteer your time to help others. Get involved somewhere -- anywhere you can spend time helping others. Enjoy the fact you have abundant time to devote to others. Give yourself to help others and you will strengthen the bonds between you and other people in your community.

7. Take up a new hobby or an old one you abandoned. Spend more time doing something you really love and are fascinated with. Experience the wonder and joy of trying new things and developing skill and even expertise you never imagined was possible. Don't be afraid to be a beginner. Share your creations with others frequently so that you look forward to more unique and special opportunity to connect and engage.

8. Call your elders more frequently. If you don't have one, get a surrogate, no matter your age. Reach out, communicate and engage with more elders more frequently. Realize that the time you spend with them is a gift beyond measure. Seek out and learn more ways to make their time interesting and enjoyable. Learn to appreciate and benefit from the time you have to talk to them, guide them and exchange much needed wisdom.

9. Protect your play time. Don't let the cult of adulthood wreak havoc on your play time. Liberate yourself and experience the joy and energy that results from spontaneous, unstructured play. If you need help figuring this one out, find a child to guide you. If you are with your elders, break out a game of cards, checkers, or Monopoly. Everyone lives better when they have enough unstructured playtime.

10. Create and organize rituals to honor aging. Get together with other men and women and spend time showcasing the things you appreciate, sharing your knowledge, crafts, creations and stories, bestowing respect, honor and dignity on each other. Instead of allowing society to marginalize you and others because of your age, come together and celebrate your coming of age. Champion one and all to become a "crone" or "sage" as an act of empowerment.

Thomas insists that to really age well, you have to cultivate a sense that this age that you are right now is the best age.

Thomas and musical guest Nate Silas Richardson are offering a 90-minute, non- fiction theater performance about how society "has twisted things around and created a diminished and demeaning picture of age and aging." It starts at 7 p.m. tonight at UNF's Andrew A. Robinson Jr. theater. It is free and open to the public, but a $25 donation is encouraged.

To learn more about the performance or to buy Thomas' book, Second Wind to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life, click here


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