Don't Fight Aging — Embrace It

Americans are always looking for the next new discovery that will keep them young. But health and wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil says we're all getting older and we'd be better off accepting it.

In his new book, "Healthy Aging," he offers ways to age gracefully and enjoy life. Click here to read an excerpt.

According to Weil, there are two reasons why people are afraid to grow old.

"We're afraid because aging means we're moving towards death and the unknown," he said. "I think, also, there are legitimate fears of losing independence or becoming disabled. Those are real fears. But our culture is so dominated by anti-aging philosophy. We are a youth-dominated culture. We do not value age. And I think the worst misconception out there is the worth of human life diminishes with aging. That's false. Aging brings challenges but also real rewards."

One of the upsides to aging, he said, is wisdom.

"I think aging brings depth of character. I think it becomes easier to accept things. Old people are sources of wisdom," Weil said. "In other cultures, like Okinawa, which I visited a number of times, the old are revered. They are living treasures, and efforts are made to include them in all community activities. I often hear people say, 'If only antiques could speak.' Well, old people can speak and they can connect us to previous times and places."

At the end of the book, Weil has a "Twelve-Point Program for Healthy Aging." Here are four of those points.

Be flexible in mind and body: "Learn to adapt to losses and let go of behaviors that are no longer appropriate for your age," Weil said. "You learn these things by trial and error. In my own life, I ran when I was younger. I got clear signals from my body that I couldn't keep running so I transitioned to swimming. Swimming is now an important part of my life, and it agrees with me for now. At some point, I may need to stop swimming and change to something else. You need to have a willingness to change. You don't have to give up exercise, but you might have to change what you do."

Discover for yourself the benefits of aging: "What is there that's commanding about an old tree?" he said "They command our attention and have a power. It's about survivorship. In whiskey, an older whiskey is deeper, more complex. We need to start thinking about ourselves in these terms, and appreciating what we've become."

Do not deny aging or try to stop it: "Try and use the experience of aging as a stimulus for spiritual awakening and growth," Weil said. "We spend so much time and energy trying to stop or slow aging. And, it's a complete waste of time and money." Weil is adamant that medical science is no where near discovering the fountain of youth. Those who try to tell you differently are scam artists.

Keep a record of lessons, wisdom, values: Weil recommends something called an ethical will. On page 234 in his book he writes: "An ordinary will … concerns the disposition of one's material possessions at death. An ethical will has to do with nonmaterial gifts: the values and life lessons that you wish to leave to others."

"At critical points in your life, take your ethical will and read it over," he said. "Add to it. Revise it and share it with people you care about. An ethical will helps you organize your own experience and focus on who you are. It's a spiritual inventory about what you want to pass on to others."

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