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Thriving in Your Third Age With Frank Widerrecht

Making the most of your Third Age, the “golden years” of adulthood marking the span of time from retirement to the beginning of age-imposed physical, emotional, and cognitive decline, is easier said than done. We often know what we should be doing to maximize our health and quality of life, yet putting those tenets into practice often seems like an incredibly difficult undertaking. Luckily for residents of Converse County, Frank Wiederrecht, the Chief Culture Officer at Memorial Hospital of Converse County, is committed to helping you live your best life.

Quality Versus Quantity

We often speak of the caliber of someone’s life by measuring how long they live, though a better indicator may be the quality of those years and not solely the number of them.

“People focus on how long they live,” said Wiederrecht. “Many of those people, for the last 20 or 30 years, they’re just sedentary and sitting there waiting to die. They no longer have the capability to enjoy what their life could be. Instead, they’re just living out their years.”

As we age, chronic inflammation is something that can creep up on us, contributing to many conditions that negatively affect our quality of life including body pain, mood disorders, and other afflictions. While ailments secondary to inflammation are common, there are basic lifestyle changes that can help chronic inflammation including a healthy diet and vigorous exercise.

Little Changes

Adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes commitment and poses a challenge that demands a paradigm shift in the way you think about wellness. Overcoming the inertia to get going can be difficult, especially if you are lacking a strong support system or ability to develop a cohesive strategy to achieve your goals.

“One of my favorite quotes goes, ‘a body in motion tends to stay in motion while a body at rest tends to stay at rest,’” said Wiederrecht. “Just show up. Workout, eat clean, be mindful. Treat being healthy like your other job. Fight to be healthy, to beat back decline and decay.”

Improving your health and quality of life is the ultimate form of self care, a topic that can elicit feelings of selfishness or vanity in some people. The thought that you are choosing to devote finite resources like time, money and effort to caring for yourself may leave you feeling uncomfortable that you’re not spending those resources on helping others. This mindset couldn’t be further from the truth.

Put Yourself First

“Self care is not selfish,” Wiederrecht said. “If you take better care of yourself, you’re better able to take care of others.”

To achieve a well-rounded lifestyle that allows you to make the most of your golden years, a holistic approach that addresses physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health is essential. Wiederrecht recommends setting the foundation for a well-rounded plan by reading Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, Gary Kraftsow’s Yoga for Wellness, Spark by John Ratey, Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, and Atomic Habits by James Clear.

“Part of continuing to live, to keep motivated, is reading,” said Wiederrecht. “I regularly read about diet and exercise to maintain the mindset around thinking and learning about health as the key to continuing to stay healthy.

Plan for Success

An essential aspect of lifestyle change is adopting a cohesive strategy that confronts the persistent problem of your body’s continual decay combined with a commitment to big-picture goals.

“Gym owner know that memberships go up every January,” said Wiederrecht. “And they fade out by February or March. It’s like, ‘well, that’s not the goal for me’. The goal is that I have another job, an obligation to take care of myself, and that is all year long.”

Long-term commitment is essential when you may not notice physical changes in the mirror even though your body has already begun undergoing positive growth.

“They’ll tell you it takes four weeks for you to notice changes,” Wiederrecht said. “It takes about eight weeks for your family to notice, and about 12 weeks for everybody else. You didn’t get into shape overnight, and you’re not going to get back into shape overnight.”

Wiederrecht emphasizes nine tips to aging slower that include:

  • Eat lots of whole foods
  • Avoid poisonous things (junk food, excessive alcohol, cigarettes, drugs)
  • Move frequently
  • Lift heavy things
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Play
  • Get adequate sunlight
  • Avoid stupid mistakes
  • Use your brain

“Workout everyday, eat clean every meal, and over-determine your success. It’s not what you do once in a while that counts, but what we do consistently. Make a plan and prepare to set yourself up for success to make it as easy as possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said Wiederrecht. “Your quality of life will be infinitely better for it.”