Aging isn’t for the faint of heart. Suddenly we’re putting Metamucil in our gin and tonics, buying cases of Advil, and strategically placing heating pads in every room of the house. Yes, the Eeyore-level energy, fallen arches, and aches and pains are real, but aging is also a privilege. You’re still alive! And though we can’t turn the clock back, we can reframe our thinking, get curious, and find ways to make the aging process less debilitating.
“I think right now there is a surge on the topic of longevity,” Tracy Thorpe, Chilmark library programs coordinator, said. “I’ve been seeing a lot of books, programs, and podcasts on how to live for as long as we can, without being bent over with no muscle mass, eating like birds, unable to drive, or struggling with cognitive ability.”
In January, Thorpe was in Northampton, and happened to see an ad for a longevity and lifestyle class by longevity coach Jim Lobely at Forbes library. “I thought this would be a great program for the Island. We have a sizable population of folks 50 and over, and I thought Jim’s program could really benefit us,” Thorpe said. “I contacted Anne McDonough, the Vineyard Haven library program director, and asked if she’d like to split the cost of Jim’s program, and she was all for it.”
Lobely’s series will explore five pillars for longevity: movement, nutrition, cognition, connection, and sleep. Folks will delve into the science of aging, and look at various strategies for building a practice that optimizes their chances to live healthier for longer. According to Lobely’s website, the goal of longevity is not simply to live longer, but to be more fully alive as we age by bringing a spirit of curiosity, experimentation, and open-mindedness to the experience of aging. We can do this by nourishing and supporting the regeneration of our bodies on a cellular level, engaging in full-range body movement, stimulating our brain, and connecting to ourselves and others.
Lobely should know. As a cancer survivor, he’s been thinking more deeply about aging and lifespan, and reframing his thinking around his own physicality.
“Not long after my dad passed, they discovered some cancer cells, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe I can cure this instead of waiting until I have to go through a medical intervention,’” Lobely said. “Turning 60, being diagnosed with cancer, and dealing with arthritis in my knees got me thinking about ways to optimize my own health while also helping others.”
As we age, it can be easy to slip into a defeatist mindset. It’s hard to feel positive when we can’t do the things we used to — especially if we’ve always been active and athletic. Yet though we may not be able to launch into a backflip on the beach, or hit a mean serve in tennis, the way we could at 18, we can still keep ourselves healthy, engaged, and moving.
“I started listening to a podcast by David Sinclair called Lifespan. Sinclair teaches in the Genetics Department at Harvard, and studies longevity genes. He explores what aging is on a cellular level, and if there are ways to reverse it,” Lobely said. “When I listened to that, I thought, Well, your biological age isn’t necessarily your physical age. I can do things through diet and exercise that can start to regenerate my body.”
Lobely’s goal for the longevity series is to offer ways for participants to feel more empowered. “I’m really looking forward to getting to know the Island community. You all live in such a beautiful place, filled with so many opportunities to be outside, in such wonderful Island air,” Lobely said. “During the first lecture, I’ll be asking what practices people are already doing to keep themselves healthy and engaged, so I can tailor the information to their specific needs.”
Lobely has supplied the Chilmark library with a few two- and three-pound weighted rubber balls, which he’ll demonstrate using from his studio, as well as thick foam pads for balance training. “I started playing around with the weighted balls a few years ago — swinging my arms, and doing a variety of movement patterns. They’re very good for opening your shoulders. The foam pads provide just enough instability to help strengthen the muscles in our legs, ankles, and shins,” Lobely said. “These items are inexpensive as well — $20 to $25 — and I’ll provide links if participants want to purchase them.”
The first longevity class begins on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 4 pm. “This is our first time offering this program,” Thorpe said. “People can watch from home, or I encourage them to come to the Chilmark library and watch it on our large screen.”
The series is free, and runs Sept. 6, Oct. 4, Nov. 1, Dec. 6, Jan. 3, and Feb. 7. To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 508-645-3360. To learn more about Jim Lobely, visit his website at thelonggame.coach.