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"Aging, Grandpa Harry, and the Quality of Life"

 

 

Hello, my friends.

I had a birthday in July, just another birthday, and I didn't think too much about it until a couple of weeks ago when I ate breakfast at a Denny's restaurant in Salem, Illinois, on my way to a seminar in St. Louis.

I was flipping through the menu and came to the back page, across the top of which was splayed the following category heading:

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"For Our Guests 55 and Older"

I must admit, that title gave me a bit of a jolt.Sometime around 4 a.m. on July 20th, I had unwittingly made the transition from the "54 and Under" age group to the one listed above.For the first time in my life, I felt a little uneasy about the whole aging process, but I got over it pretty quickly, as the discount was nothing to sneeze (or wheeze) at.So, I gave the waitress a weak smile (or feeble grin), and ordered the "Senior Eggs & Cheddar."

 

Planning for 100

As I'm working with our older patients on a daily basis, I sometimes check the birth date in their chart, do a quick subtraction from 100 in my head, and say something like, "Oh, you've probably only got another 25 years or so" (in the case of a 75 year old).Their response, almost invariably, is "OH, no.I don't want to live to be 100!"Yet, the experts tell us that literally millions of the people currently alive are destined (or doomed) to reach that magic number.

The reason why people respond the way they do to my comment is because they're thinking of their mom or dad or other relative of advanced age, languishing away in the nursing home, hardly aware of who or where they are, barely able to see or hear or walk, seldom if ever receiving visitors.Not much of a life.

 

Contrast that with my own Grandpa Harry, a very fortunate fellow indeed, who lived to be 102 and was of sound body and mind right up to the last couple of months.Grandpa seemed to eat whatever he wanted, never complained of pain anywhere, took a daily walk around the block (dragging a cane along behind him, "just in case"), and rode a "motorized exercise bike" every day for the last 40 years, a contraption the likes of which I've never seen before or since.

This thing had pedals that went around on their own at high speed and handlebars that took his body forward and backward at the same rapid rate.Grandpa was very proud of that bike, and delighted in taking us back to his room and demonstrating it for us, spinning those handlebars around in mid-stride.I swear, it would have thrown a lesser man (like me) out the window, or through the wall.

 

What's The Secret?

What's the difference between my grandfather and so many others who don't fare so well?Some of it, I suppose, is genetics, although none of Grandpa's siblings lived nearly as long as he did.Some of it is mental (Dad tells me that Grandpa was a "cocky little guy" in his younger years.He certainly had a positive self-image, and plenty of confidence).Much of it is lifestyle choices (Grandpa was still stomping through the woods hunting squirrels in his eighties, and during most of his working life he was out and back and had his wild game cleaned and in the freezer before he had to be at the office in the morning).

On the other hand, Grandpa was known to have a "nip" or two in his earlier life, although he quit "cold turkey" when he was around 65, and lived almost another 40 years.He also gave up coffee somewhere along the line, when a doctor told him that even one cup wasn't good for him (Grandpa said, "I'll show that doctor!I'll just drink water!")And so he did, keeping a glass (no ice) by his chair every day as he watched yet another baseball game (he would often watch several in one day, keeping score on a little form my uncle designed for him).He didn't have a favorite team - just loved baseball - and since he's been gone, I find that I like it more than I used to.I sometimes wonder if he's still hovering around, influencing my tastes.

 

The only vice I can recall Grandpa having in those last years was Mountain Dew - he drank one every afternoon.I'm sometimes tempted to follow his example, since it worked so well for him, but I'm more of a Dr. Pepper man myself.

 

One Possible Key

One thing I do remember about Grandpa, when he used to come into the office for adjustments, was the condition of his spine - it was way above average.It was straight where it was supposed to be straight, curved where it was supposed to be curved, and had very little degeneration for a man in his nineties.I wish I could take the credit for that, but the truth is, I didn't get ahold of him until he was well on his way to accomplishing his extraordinary life.In fact, I would sometimes ask myself, "Why am I working on this guy?He could hardly be doing any better!"He once asked me, "Frank, do I look like I'm 97 years old?" to which I had to reply, "I don't know, Grandpa.I don't have anyone to compare you to!"

 

But my point about his spine is this:Grandpa was a walking testament to the chiropractic principle, that the spine is a key, perhaps the primary key, to health.If it's lined up as closely as possible to the "ideal model," and every vertebra is moving freely and normally, it's not likely to deteriorate, the discs aren't likely to rupture, the nerve system isn't likely to be irritated, the organs and immune system are likely to work properly, and the patient is likely to be healthy and happy and live to be… say… around 102.

Thanks, Grandpa.For helping me make my point.And for the memories.And (hopefully), for the genes.

 

Wishing you health, happiness and peace,

 

Dr. Frank Bowling

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