A GOOD ATTITUDE
Author's advice: Live your best no matter your age
By Pat Sherman
Copley News Service
Kelly Ferrin believes the 76 million baby boomers approaching retirement age could learn a thing or two from the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger.
Some critics have derided the 64-year-old rock 'n' roll singer's aerobic stage antics as age-inappropriate. Ferrin considers "Sir Mick" a "super senior."
"These are people who aren't caught up in how old they are because they're living their life," said Ferrin, a gerontologist.
"The Rolling Stones are still out there rockin' and rolling in their 60s ... Mick Jagger did a major intervention with all the members of the band, saying, 'If we're going to take on this challenge, we're going to have to get healthier and we're going to have to stop drinking and partying' - not to the point where they were abstinent, but considerably. I admire that."
As author of the book "What's Age Got To Do With It" (ALTI Publishing, $14.95), Ferrin speaks to groups throughout the country. She has appeared on "Oprah," "Today," and "Good Morning America."
Ferrin has long believed that the key to remaining active, engaged and vital late in life is related to attitude and lifestyle. The biggest challenge people face is in overcoming society's image of what should happen as a person gets older, she said.
"What I try and do is change people's mindset and beliefs about what's possible in the second half of life, not trying to get people to be younger, but living the best they can be at whatever age they are," said Ferrin, a Carlsbad, Calif., resident. "Mindset, attitude and beliefs drive behaviors."
Ferrin's interest in aging was piqued while attending the University of Southern California on a golf scholarship. She soon altered her educational trajectory to attend USC's gerontology school. The university was one of the first to offer a degree in the field.
"All the studies and the emphasis were focusing on decline and frailty and poor health," Ferrin recalled. "To get information on aging they went to a convenient place to study aging, and that was a nursing home."
Ferrin noticed that the bulk of the people she was playing golf with were the same age as people she met while conducting research in the nursing home.
"I thought, what are these people doing differently and is there some way we can prevent some of this decline?"
Though most people naturally slow down with age, there are ways for seniors to remain vital, Ferrin said.
"It comes to play now that we are spending a third of our life in retirement - 30 years," Ferrin said. "I understand that stuff happens, but even with some of the decline and frailty, you can still engage your mind, you can still contribute, volunteer and work. Those things make the difference between living and existing."
Ferrin, a longtime resident of San Diego County, said she took cues on aging early in life from her grandparents.
"My mom's dad was a beekeeper and he was very active," she recalled. "I can remember on family picnics in Balboa Park, we would go over to the jungle gym and he would do chin-ups. He had biceps as big as Popeye's - and that was in his 80s."
Ferrin said her grandmother walked everywhere she went, often to volunteer her time and services.
"She had a giddyap to her step.
"Sure, my grandparents developed hearing problems and visual problems ... but they kept on keeping on, and that's the thing that inspired me.
"I'm not talking about being perfect physically; I just want to keep that pilot light lit."
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