In some ways we baby boomers are taking better care of ourselves than any generation before us. And in other ways, we’re not. That’s what Ed Meek of Somerville, Massachusetts, writes about in this piece in which he says, Time to take responsibility.
Three years ago I went for a late afternoon bike ride. On my way to the local bike path, a bus pulled to a stop in front of me. The sun reflected off the windows of the bus temporarily blinding me. I hit a curb and crashed, cracking my kneecap in half and hitting my head on the pavement. The next day I was hobbling around on crutches and nursing my headache with Tylenol. My wife said, “I don’t mind if I have to drive you around after a knee injury, but if you injure your brain because you didn’t wear a helmet, don’t expect me to take care of you.”
I decided I’d wear a helmet when biking from then on. I made this decision not just to protect myself from injury but also so I won’t be a burden to others. It may feel better to ride without a helmet but it is irresponsible to do so.
Maybe we should all start taking responsibility for our actions. Isn’t that what grown-ups do? According to Time Magazine, 72 percent of older men and 67 percent of older women are overweight or obese. The link between being overweight and having health problems is well established. People who are overweight are more likely to be diabetic. They are more likely to have high blood pressure. Shouldn’t we take responsibility for our weight and the elements of our health that we can control?
It isn’t as if we don’t know how to eat healthy and exercise. Yet in America, the way our food is marketed and sold to us doesn’t make it easy. Social activities and vacations often include our favorite foods and drinks. Salty snacks, sugary drinks, aisles of chips and dips, cheap fast food, buffets. To eat healthy in the U.S. you have to say no, a lot. And each year as we age, we need to eat less to maintain the same weight.
It’s a struggle for sure. I’m always hungry and I love my wife’s homemade lasagna. I love pizza and cheeseburgers, fries, chips, salsa, guacamole, beer and margaritas. I love cookies. Eating out these days often requires splitting meals with my wife.
How about getting a dog? Dogs are great companions and they force you to go for daily walks. I walk Mookie twice a day and one those times we take a longish stroll of three miles. I also walk someone else’s dog two to three times a week. And I work in a couple of bike rides and a little softball on the weekends. If you are retired and able-bodied, you have no excuse to avoid exercise. But for me at least, with all this exercise, I still need to limit what I eat.
There is one more reason besides our own health to eat wisely. It is one of the ways we can personally fight climate change. As David Wallace-Wells says in The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, our food system is not good for the planet. The more we can eat locally grown and raised food, the better. Eating healthy means more vegetables. In summer, that’s easy if you can get to a farmer’s market. And if you’re retired, you have no excuse not to.