Have you ever thought ahead to what you might be like when you’re older? It’s one of a few questions I’ve been thinking about this week… What will I be like when I am 80? Or 90, 100, if I should be so lucky? Will I be fit and well, or will I have health problems? Will I be a grandparent? Will my husband be alive? How will I cope if he’s not? Will I still be living here? Will I be happy? So many questions have filled my head, but then I am a chronic overthinker!
Imagining what we’ll be like ‘when we grow up’ is something we all probably did as kids. Dreaming about what jobs we might have, whether we’ll get married, have kids, what house we’ll live in, whether we’ll have a dog etc. But as we enter our 40s and 50s, even though we’ve likely got years ahead of us still, many of us give up on any outstanding aspirations we might have. Perhaps we feel as though the life we have now is one that we should settle with. That we’re too old to change careers/go traveling/go to university/learn a new skill. And possibly this life you have created is good enough, I mean the grass isn’t always greener. But on the flipside, who the hell decided there should be an age limit on these things?
Anyway, I’ve had all this lot buzzing around my head this week. And funnily enough a friend of mine also mentioned a Netflix documentary she’d been watching called Live to 100, Wherever You Are In The World. Plus, on top of that, I also received a newsletter from someone I follow all about the concept of the Centenarian Decathlon, which I’m going to go into in a bit more detail in a mo. It was as if the universe was talking directly to me, the signs were all there that I should be taking this ageing thing seriously.
The Centenarian Decathlon
Let me explain what the Centenarian Decathlon is then. It is a concept devised by Dr Peter Attia who is a Canadian-American physician who specializes in the area of longevity medicine. He encourages his patients to choose 10 physical tasks (decathlon) that they would like to be able to do at 100 (centenarian) and then asks them to pick apart these tasks in order to figure out what actions they need to take in the present day to ensure they can achieve these goals.
The tasks they choose for their list could range from the highly physical, for example being able to swim a certain distance in a certain length of time; everyday activities, like hiking or riding a bike, right through to more practical physical activities like carrying shopping bags or getting up from the floor unaided. They would then work out a plan together that would encompass exercises they could do in the present that would help them to continue doing these tasks as they age, with a view to ideally being alive at 100 and still being able to do them.
Now, many of us would be incredibly lucky to make it to 100, let’s be honest. However, I really like the concept, it makes a lot of sense to me. So, feeling inspired, I wanted to come up with my own list of things that I still want to be able to do when I am 80. I mean hopefully I’ll go on longer than that, but 80 seems like a good number to aim for, certainly in terms of keeping physically active.
10 Things I Still Want To Be Able To Do When I Am 80
When I am 80 years old I want to still be able to do the following:
- Sit cross legged on the floor.
- Touch my toes.
- Do at least 20 sit ups.
- Balance on one leg.
- Go for long walks.
- Pick a child up from the floor and carry them.
- Climb up and down the stairs without assistance.
- Walk up and down the hill into the forest at the bottom of my garden.
- Squat down to weed the garden.
- Carry heavy items like shopping bags or suitcases from the car to the house.
Most of these points seem such minor things, right? 44 year old me wouldn’t bat an eyelid about doing any of these things. But how will 80 year old me cope? Well, obviously I don’t yet know the answer. However, the point of this exercise is to get me thinking about the actions I need to take now in order to make sure I have a better chance of still being able to do these things when I am 80 and beyond. And I know it seems a long way off, but honestly the work does need to be put in now.
A saying I use a lot is ‘use it or lose it’ and this for me perfectly exemplifies my point here. The lifestyle choices we make now, have a direct effect on our lifestyle later on. And by making the right choices now, it allows us more choices later. Making the wrong choices now, well… that pretty much leaves us with no choices at all.
What Can I Do To Help 80 Year Old Me?
Listen, I don’t want to completely paint a doom and gloom picture here. And obviously the Snapchat filtered photos I’ve used in this article are just me having a laugh – I’m kinda hoping I won’t age quite as badly as that, but I do at least look happy! What I am hoping for, is that by writing my list of 10 things, and hopefully inspiring you to write your own list too, is that it will change how I view the way I exercise, my diet, and the impact my mental health has on my overall health.
As some of you may know, I like to run and do the odd home workout from time to time. You may also be aware, I mean I do go on about it a fair bit, that I am going through perimenopause. And I’ve noticed that as I head deeper into this perimenopause stage of my life, my motivation to run and do workouts (plus if I’m being totally honest with myself, my capability to do both of these) has decreased somewhat. Likewise with my diet, my good intentions and motivation to eat well are not as strong as they used to be. Jeez, what can I say, I love big portions and sweet stuff, so sue me!
My relationship with exercise is slowly becoming more intuitive. And this is a great thing. I am learning to listen to my body more. I no longer feel the need to have to stick to a set in stone exercise plan. Yes, I still roughly work out what movement I’m going to do that week, for example I might plan in 2 or 3 runs on certain days across the week, and I might plan to do a workout on certain days, or maybe some yoga, and of course I walk the dog every day. But what I no longer do is beat myself up if I don’t stick to ‘the plan’. If at the end of the day I go to tick things off of my to do list and I see that I haven’t actually done a workout that day even though it’s on the list, I don’t feel guilty. If I wake up and think do you know what, I just don’t feel like doing that today, I don’t feel bad about it. There is always a good reason for why I haven’t done exercise. Whether it’s because my body doesn’t feel up to it (I’m on my period, I’ve got perimenopausal tiredness, I’ve had a bad nights sleep etc.), or because I’ve had a super busy day and I can’t fit it in, or simply because I just cannot be arsed, if I don’t get round to exercising when I was planning to, it is OK. But I make sure I move. Stretching in the morning, walking round the garden, dancing in the kitchen, hanging the washing out, chasing the dog, all of this movement counts. Think how we are as children. Always moving around, never sitting still. And the movement is varied. Lots of getting up and down, twisting and turning, jumping, bending, a complete range of motion that unless we consciously stick at it, we kinda lose when we’re older.
I’ve realised that exercise isn’t about going at it hell for leather and pushing myself to breaking point. It’s not even really about getting out of breath or working up a sweat, although often I do both these things. And don’t get me wrong, some people may feel very differently about this and absolutely thrive off of competition and the numbers, but for me personally exercise nowadays is about moving my body in a way that feels fun, that feels intuitive to my needs, and that fits in with my lifestyle both now and in later years.
When I am 80 I want to still be going off on long walks in the forest and not worrying about it being too far or the terrain too tricky for me. If my kids have kids I want to be that grandma that can run around in the garden with them and pick them up and give them a cuddle without worrying about falling over or putting my back out. I want to still be able to get up in the morning and stretch and touch my toes, because it feels good right? I want to still be able to get out in the garden and kneel down to do some weeding, safe in the knowledge that I can easily get back up again. I want to be able to do all these things and all of the other things on my list, because these are the things that make me happy. And if all I need to do is put in a bit of work now to ensure my body is still capable of moving in certain ways, then my god it’s worth it.
What Would Be On Your List?
I’d love to hear what would be on your list of activities that you would like to still be able to do when you are 80, so please get in touch!
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Becky Stafferton is a full-time content creator and web publisher. She continually strives to promote a realistic, sustainable and positive image of how to lead a healthy life. When she’s not writing she can be found running through muddy puddles, making lists of lists, having a good old moan, talking in funny voices to her dog, renovating her house in the country, and pottering about in her garden.